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The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Dixie School Girl, by Gabrielle E. Jackson

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Title: A Dixie School Girl

Author: Gabrielle E. Jackson

Release Date: June 12, 2008 [EBook #25765]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A DIXIE SCHOOL GIRL ***




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[Illustration: "Mr. Tedford, Have You Any Huyler Boxes?"
Dixie School Girl (Page 36)]

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                          A DIXIE SCHOOL GIRL

                                   By
                          GABRIELLE E. JACKSON

                             Made In U.S.A.

                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                          CHICAGO :: NEW YORK

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                             COPYRIGHT 1913
                                   BY
                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY

                            Made in U. S. A.

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                       TO MY TWO DIXIE NEIGHBORS,

    whose entertaining tales of their childhood escapades have helped
    to make these stories, this first volume of the "Dixie Girl" is
    most affectionately inscribed by their friend.
                                                              G. E. J.

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                                CHAPTER I

                       FULL SPEED FOR FOUR CORNERS


Four straight country roads running at right angles. You cannot see where
they begin because they have their beginning "over the hills and far
away," but you can see where they end at "Four Corners," the hub of that
universe, for there stand the general store, which is also the
postoffice, the "tavern," as it is called in that part of the world, the
church, the rectory, and perhaps a dozen private dwellings.

"Four Corners" is oddly mis-named, because there are no corners there at
all. It is a circle. Maybe it was originally four corners, but today it
is certainly a circle with a big open space in the center, and in the
very middle of that stands a flag staff upon which floats the stars and
stripes. The whole open space is covered with the softest green turf.
_Not_ a lawn, mind you, such as one may see in almost any immaculately
kept northern town, with artistic flower beds dotting it, and a carefully
trimmed border of foliage plants surrounding it. No, this circle has real
Virginia turf; the thick, rich, indestructible turf one finds in England,
which, as an old gardener told the writer, "we rolls and tills it for a
thousand years." Nature had been rolling and tilling this green plot of
ground for a good many thousand years.

The circle was encompassed by an iron rail fence to which the people from
the surrounding community hitched their saddle or carriage horses when
they came to the "Store" for their mail, or to make various purchases.
And there the beasties often stood for hours, rubbing noses and
exchanging the gossip of the paddocks, horse (or mule) fashion.

There were always several hitched there, and they were always gossiping
or dozing as they waited for their owners to start toward home, and they
represented all sorts and conditions of their kind just as those owners
represented all sorts and conditions of men. Some were young men, some
middle-aged, some old. Some were of the gentry of the surrounding
country, some the humbler white folk, some the negroes who had managed to
acquire small tracts of land which they farmed successfully or otherwise.
Among them, too, was the typical shiftless, "triflin' no-'count" darkey
who "jist sits 'round a-waitin'," though it would be hard for him to tell
what he was waiting for.

Nevertheless, the "Corners" is the center of the activities of that
community, though to make those who most frequently gather there,
comprehend the limitations of its activities they would have to be set
down in the midst of some big, hustling city.

Still, some who go to the Corners are very much alive to this fact, for
they have journeyed throughout the length and breadth of their own land
and many other lands beside. But they do not tell their less travelled
brothers much of the wonders which lie beyond the towering mountains,
which is just as well, perhaps. The stay-at-home might be less happy and
content were they to learn of the doings of the big world beyond the
barriers of their snug, peaceful valley, which seems to the wiser ones so
far away from the trials, struggles, and worries of the world beyond.

And, curiously enough, when those of wider knowledge return to the valley
they find again the peace and tranquility which they left there, and,
breathing a sigh of relief, settle back into its restful atmosphere, and
tranquil content, as one settles into a comfortable old chair.

The nearest "real, sure-enough town" to the Corners is Sprucy Branch and
that is fourteen miles from Luray, with its famous caverns. To reach
Sprucy Branch from Four Corners one must drive or ride "a right smart
distance," and then to reach Luray take a railway trip or drive the
fourteen miles. It is a beautiful part of this big world, and the valley
is a happy one. Moreover, it would be hard to find a more delightful,
little social world than its gentlefolk represent. Not the formal,
artificial, rigidly conventional social world of the big northern cities,
where few have time or inclination to be absolutely genuine, but the
rare, true social life of the well-bred southerner, to whom friendship
means much, kinship more, and family ties everything. Whose sons go forth
into the world to make their mark, and often their fortunes, too, yet
still retain the charm of their up-bringing, the traditions of their
families, and their intense love of "the home back yonder." Whose
daughters, though brought up, "raised," they often say, in the simplicity
of country life, and more often than not having very limited financial
resources, are in the truest sense of that beautiful old word, the
gentlewomen we picture, prepared to grace their homes, or the outer world
and reflect credit upon the land of their birth. And this is the
conviction of her northern sister, the first of nine generations to be
born beyond the borders of the old Bay State, so she can hardly be
accused of a biased opinion.

And this lovely September morning, when the air holds just the faintest
suggestion of autumn, when the leaves are beginning to hint of richer
tints than the soft greens which they have worn all summer, when the
native birds are hobnobbing and gossiping with their friends who are
journeying farther south, "All the news of the north to the sunny south
bringing," and the squirrels are chattering and scolding as they gather
their hoard of chinkapins and other fodder for the long winter at hand,
something is stirring. Yes, stirring vigorously, too, if one may judge by
the hullabaloo which suddenly arises far down the East Pike. The people
gathered upon the porch at the store prick up their ears to listen. There
are a dozen or more there upon one errand or another, for the store is
the commercial center of the district, and from it can be bought or
ordered every nameable thing under the sun. It is also the postoffice,
so, once, at least, each day there wends his or her way to it, every
human being who expects, hopes for, or by any chance may receive a
letter.

It was mail time. Hence the number of people gathered about to prick up
their ears as the racket down the road grew louder and louder each
second, and the thud of horses' hoofs, the shouts of boys' voices and a
girl's ringing laugh were borne to them.

"Yonder comes the Woodbine bunch, I'll bet a dollar, and they're sure
enough a-hittin' it up, too. Reckon that young one of the old Admiral's
is a-settin' the pace, too. She's a clipper, all right," commented a man
seated upon a tilted-back chair, his hat pushed far back upon his shock
head. He was guiltless of coat, and his jean trousers were hitched high
about his waist by a pair of wool suspenders.

Hardly had he ceased speaking when three horses came pounding into view,
the leader ridden by a girl about fifteen years of age. The animal was a
little mouse-colored beastie with white markings and eyes which gave a
pretty strong hint of a good bit of broncho disposition to which the
markings also pointed. He was lithe and agile as a cat and moved with
something of the sinuous gliding of that animal, rather than the bounding
motions of his eastern-bred mates. The two horses running neck and neck
behind him were evidently blooded animals, and all three were a-lather
from the pace set by their leader, all mud-bespattered to the point of
being wholly disreputable, for a shower the previous night had left many
a wide puddle in the road.

The girl leading rode as only a southern girl, accustomed to a saddle all
her life, can ride. The saddle was of the Mexican type, but the headstall
was the lightest possible, with a simple snaffle bit, even that seeming
almost superfluous for she guided her mount more by the motions of her
body than the bridle. She held the reins at arm's length in her left
hand, while with her right she waved above her head a soft felt hat, her
banner of defiance and derision of her pursuers. Swaying ever so slightly
in her saddle, she brought her wiry little mount up to the platform, and
slid from his back as snow slides from a hillside. The reins were tossed
over his head and the race was ended.

Running across the porch she nodded or bowed comprehensively to all
seated or standing upon it--the greeting accompanied by a sunny, happy
smile which revealed faultlessly pretty teeth.

As she disappeared within the store her friends came rushing up to the
platform, shouting after her as they drew up their horses:

"Here, come back! Hold on! That's no fair, even if you did beat. _We're_
going to decide the kind of candy. You'll do us out of our last cent if
we let you get it."

"Of course! Why not?" was called back, banteringly.

"Do you think I'm going to run Apache off his legs, risk breaking my neck
and then not have the say-so in the end? I reckon not. It's just _got_ to
be chocolates _this_ time. Cinnamon suckers are all right enough for a
little race, but this was a two-mile go-it-for-all-you're-worth one, and
besides, you'd better be nice to me, while you have the chance, because
you won't have me with you very much longer."

"Ah, cut that out. We know it well enough. You needn't rub it in," was
the chorus of answers.

"Shut up, Bev," added the taller of the two boys, a fair haired lad of
sixteen or seventeen. He was a handsome boy, with eyes of such a deep
blue that they seemed violet, wavy golden hair and a fine, clear skin,
though it was tanned many shades darker than nature intended it to be.
The nose was clean cut, and the mouth and chin indicated considerable
strength of character. He carried himself as though very sure of his
place in the world, and his intention to hold it. Nevertheless, the face
was a cheery, happy one.

The other boy was so like the girl that it was laughable. Exchange their
garments and it would have puzzled the cleverest person to tell
"t'other-from-which." To label them twins would have been superfluous.
Nature had attended to that little matter fifteen years earlier in their
lives, and even their old mammy used to say: "Now don' none of yo' other
chillern go ter projectin' wid dem babies whilst I's got my haid turn'd
'way, cause if yo' does dey's gwine fer to get mixed pintedly, an' den
I's gwine ter have ter spend a hull hour mebbe a-gettin' my mind settled
pon which is which again."

Moreover, the fifteen years of daily association had only served to
consummate what Dame Nature had so ably begun, for the girl and the boy
almost thought and felt in unison. In all those years they had hardly
been separated for a day. That is no further than a strict quarantine
beneath the same roof had separated them, and that had been entirely
Beverly's doings. At five she began the performance by contracting
whooping-cough; at seven she tried mumps; at nine turned a beautiful
lobster hue from measles, and at eleven capped the climax by scaring the
family nearly to death with scarlet fever, and thereby causing her
grandfather, Admiral Ashby, to exclaim:

"Lord bless my soul, Beverly, you are worse than the potato bugs; they
_do_ skip the fatal second year now and again, but you never let up."

Perhaps this criticism had called a halt in her performances in the line
of contagious diseases, for since the scarlet fever scare she had quit
frightening the family into spasms, and at fifteen was as charming,
healthy, and tantalizing a bit of girlhood as one could wish to see,
though about as much of a tomboy as one could find.




                               CHAPTER II

                                WOODBINE


While Beverly Ashby is squabbling good-naturedly with her brother and
chum, suppose we take this opportune moment in which to learn something
about the trio?

Beverly and her brother, Athol, had elected to enter this world exactly
fifteen years and four months prior to the opening of this story. They
also chose the thirteenth of May, 1897, to spring their first surprise
upon their family by arriving together, and had managed to sustain their
reputations for surprising the grownups by never permitting a single year
to pass without some new outbreak, though it must be admitted that
Beverly could certainly claim the greater distinction of the two in that
direction.

"Woodbine," their home, had been the family seat for many generations. It
had seen many a Seldon enter this world and many a one depart from it. It
had witnessed the outgoing of many brides from its broad halls, and seen
many enter to become its mistress. It was a wonderful old place,
beautiful, stately, and so situated upon its wooded upland that it
commanded a magnificent view of the broad valley of Sprucy Stream. Over
against it lay the foothills of the blue, blue mountains, the Blue Ridge
range, and far to the westward the peaks of the Alleghanies peeped above
the Massanutton range nearer at hand.

The valley itself was like a rare painting. The silvery stream running
through the foreground, the rich woodlands and fertile fields, the
marvelous lights and shadows ever holding the one looking upon it
entranced. And all this lay before the broad acres of Woodbine, so named
because that graceful vine hung in rich festoons from every column,
gallery, portico and even the eaves to which it had climbed, a delicate
gray-green adornment in early spring, a rich, darker tone in midsummer,
and a gorgeous crimson in the autumn.

It was a spacious old mansion and would have been considered a large one
even in the north, where, during the past fifty years, palaces have
sprung into existence under the misnomer of "cottages." Happily, it did
not tower up into the air as many of the so-called cottages do, but
spread itself comfortably over the greensward, the central building being
the only one ambitious enough to attain to two stories and a sharply
peaked roof, in which were set several dormer windows from which a most
entrancing view of the valley and distant mountain ranges could be
obtained.

These dormer window chambers were rarely used, and, excepting during the
semi-annual house cleaning, rarely visited. That one of these rare visits
should have been paid one of them upon this particular day of which we
are writing was simply Kismet. But of that a little later. Let us finish
our picture of lovely Woodbine.

Across the entire front of the main floor as well as the second story,
ran a wide piazza, gallery they call it in that part of the country. The
lower gallery gave upon a broad, velvety lawn dotted with elms, beeches,
oaks and feathery pines. No path led to this gallery, and when one
stepped from it one's feet sank into the softest green turf. The door
which opened upon it fairly spoke hospitality and welcome from its
beautiful fan-like arch to its diamond-paned side lights and the hall
within was considered one of the more perfect specimens of the
architecture of its period to be found in the state, as was the stately
circular double stairway leading to the floor above. Half way up, upon a
broad landing, a stained glass window, brought long, long ago from
England, let the western sunlight filter through its richly tinted panes
and lie in patches of exquisite color upon polished stairs and floor.

At the north and south ends of the house were the real entrances from the
carefully raked, wide driveway which described almost a complete circle
from the great stone gateway half a mile across Woodbine's lawn. Could
this driveway have run straight through the house the circle would have
been perfect, but it had to stop at the big south portico, with its
graceful columns, and resume its sweep from the north one which gave upon
the "office," the overseer's cottage, the various buildings devoted to
the business "ob de gr'et house," as the darkies called it, and away
further to the stables, carriage house, granaries and other buildings of
the estate, with the servants' cabins behind these. All upon the north
side of Woodbine was devoted to the practical, utilitarian needs of the
place, all upon its southern to its pleasures and luxuries, for in the
buildings circling away from the south end were the spacious kitchens,
dairy, smoke house, laundry and other buildings necessary to the domestic
economy of the household. None of these buildings touched directly upon
the main house, but were connected with it by a roofed-over colonnade
upon which the woodbine ran riot, as it did upon all the detached
buildings, producing an effect charming beyond description. The
colonnades described a semicircle from the north-west and south-west
corners of the big house, and led from the kitchen to the big dining
room, and from the office to the Admiral's study. All the buildings were
constructed of rich red brick, brought from England generations ago, the
pillars being of white marble. The effect against the dark green foliage
was picturesque to agreed.

Unlike many of the old southern homes, Woodbine had always been kept in
perfect repair, and by some miracle of good fortune, had escaped the
ravages of the Civil War. Its present owner, Admiral Athol Seldon,
enjoyed a very comfortable income, having been wise enough during the
troublous times of the war to invest his fortune where it would be
reasonably safe. He would not have been called a wealthy man, as wealth
is gauged in the great northern cities, but in this peaceful valley,
where needs were simple and diversions sensible, he was regarded as a man
of affluence and no little importance.

During the war he had served in the Confederate Navy, and served with all
the strength of his convictions. When it ended in a lost cause he
returned to Woodbine to learn in what condition the home he so loved had
come through the conflict, for it was situated in the very vortex of the
disturbance. Finding it but slightly harmed, and having sufficient means
to repair it, he resolved to end his days there. He had never married, an
early romance having come to a tragic end in the death of his fiancee
soon after the outbreak of the war. Consequently, beautiful Woodbine
lacked a mistress, to the great distress of the old family servants.

To remedy this he sent for his brother's widow and her little
two-year-old daughter, Mary. Beverly Seldon, two years his brother's
junior, had been killed at the battle of Winchester in 1864, and the
little Mary had entered this world exactly five months after her father's
death. Her mother came very near following her father into the great
beyond, but survived the shock to live beneath Athol Seldon's hospitable
roof until Mary was eleven years of age, then quietly went to sleep,
leaving Mary to her uncle's care. The child then and there became
mistress not only of Woodbine, but of every living thing upon the place,
her uncle included, and no only daughter could have been cared for,
petted, spoiled or spanked more systematically than the Madcap Mary
Seldon.

At twenty-six she married Turner Ashby, the grandson of one of the
Admiral's oldest friends. Two years later a little daughter was born, but
died before she was a year old. Then, just when the old Admiral was
beginning to grumble because there seemed to be no prospect of a
grand-nephew to inherit Woodbine, Mary Ashby presented him with not only
an heir but an heiress as well, and the old gentleman came very near a
balloon ascension.

The twins were christened Athol Seldon Ashby and Beverly Turner Ashby
before they had fully decided that they were really American citizens,
and for seven years no happier household could have been found in the
state. Then another calamity visited it. Turner Ashby was killed in a
railway accident while north on a business trip. It was a frightful blow
to the home in which he was adored by every member, from the Admiral
straight down to the blackest little piccaninny upon the estate, and to
make it, if possible, more tragic, all that ever came back to Woodbine
was the seal ring he had worn, picked up in the charred ruins of the
parlor coach. More than eight years had passed since that tragedy, and
those years had changed Mary Ashby from a light-hearted, happy young wife
and joyous mother to a quiet, dignified woman. Never again did her
children find in her the care-free, romping play-fellow they had always
known, though she never ceased to be the gentle, tender mother.

And how they missed it. They were too young to fully appreciate their
loss, though they grieved deeply for the tall, handsome, golden-haired,
blue-eyed father who had been their jolly comrade, riding, romping with
them, rowing, playing all manner of games, and always ready to relate
some thrilling tale, and who, after eleven years of married life, had
remained as much their mother's lover as upon the day he married her.
Indeed, all the countryside mourned for Turner Ashby, for such a
personality could not be snatched from its environment without leaving a
terrible blank for many years.

Athol was like him in character, but not the least in personal
appearance, for both children were Seldon from the crowns of their dark
heads to the tips of their small feet. Their chum, and inseparable
companion, Archie Carey, might more readily have been taken for Turner
Ashby's son: he was so tall, fair-haired and blue-eyed. Two years their
senior and living upon the adjacent estate of "Uplands," he had grown up
in an uninterrupted companionship with Athol and Beverly, and was
regarded by them very much as an elder brother so far as camaraderie
went, though by no means accorded an older brother's privileges by Miss
Beverly. Indeed, she was more often the leading spirit in the fun,
frolics or scrapes into which they were constantly plunging, as for
example the one alluded to in the opening chapter. But that must have a
chapter all to itself.




                               CHAPTER III

                         FROM THE DORMER WINDOW


Woodbine, as has been said, lay about two miles from Four Corners, the
road leading to the post office clearly visible for almost its entire
length.

It had always been the custom at Woodbine and Uplands to send to Four
Corners twice daily for the mail, the children as a rule doing the errand
and only too glad of the diversion, for they never failed to hear some
bit of neighborhood gossip at the post office, or meet friends from some
of the adjacent estates. Moreover, there was invariably the speculation
regarding the writers of the letters taken from the box even when the
letters were addressed to other members of their respective families, for
neither Beverly, Athol or Archie had extensive correspondence with the
world beyond the mountains. Just now, however, a new and vital interest
had arisen, for after a grave family conclave it had been definitely
settled that the time had arrived when Beverly and Athol must break away
from the old order of things and be sent to boarding schools. Up to the
present time a governess or a tutor had taught their young ideas to
shoot, (straight or otherwise) with Admiral Seldon as head of the
discipline department, a position by no means a sinecure since Beverly
represented one-half the need of such a department. Until the children
were twelve the governess had been all sufficient but at that point Athol
rebelled at being "a sissy" and demanded a tutor, Beverly entirely
concurring in his views. So a tutor had been installed and had remained
until the previous July, when he was called to fill a more lucrative
position elsewhere. Thus Woodbine's young shoots were left without a
trainer, to the dismay of its older members and distress of its younger
ones, for both Beverly and Athol had grown very fond of Norman Lee, who
seemed but little older than themselves, though in reality quite ten
years their senior. In the schoolroom he had been the staid, dignified
instructor but beyond its walls no better chum and comrade could have
been found. He was hale-fellow in all their good times and frolics.
Consequently his resignation "just broke up the whole outfit," as Athol
put it, and both children vowed they wouldn't have anybody else at
Woodbine because nobody else could ever be half so nice as Norman Lee.
Long before the three years of his tutorship ended he had become "Norman"
to all the household, even the children adopting the more familiar
appellation beyond the schoolroom doors, though within it the concession
of "Mr. Norman" was yielded, which secretly amused the young tutor not a
little, and often caused him to wonder how the boy and girl contrived to
maintain the attitude so consistently and with such perfect gravity. For
four hours of the day he might have been Methuselah's own brother from
their standpoint but upon the school-room's threshold they dropped as
garments the relations of pupils and teacher and became the best of good
chums.

It had been a singularly happy relation and it was not surprising that it
seemed to them well-nigh impossible to renew it with an entire stranger.

And truth to tell the Admiral and Mrs. Ashby were not in the least
sanguine of being able to find any one else capable of repeating it and
for a time were a good deal daunted by the outlook for the coming year.

The previous year Archie Carey had gone away to school and during his
holidays had come back to Uplands brimful of enthusiasm and determined to
have Athol join him. Athol was quite as eager to do so, the one fly in
his ointment of pure joy being the thought of the separation from
Beverly, though boy-like, he kept this fact deep buried in his heart.
Nevertheless, it made him feel queer when the possibility of going upon
divided ways to different schools became a very definite one indeed. The
boy and girl were like a pair of horses which has been driven together
fifteen years and suddenly separated. True, the separation was not as yet
a fact, but human beings can suffer more in anticipation than the brute
creation can in reality. The great question at present was which of many
schools to select. Admiral Seldon had written to several for circulars
and information, and had been nearly swamped with replies in every
conceivable form. At length he had weeded the mass down to three,
entering into more definite correspondence with these, and the replies to
his last letters were now being eagerly awaited by Beverly, Athol and
Archie. The school now under most favorable consideration for Beverly was
about thirty-five miles from Sprucy Branch, the town nearest Four Corners
and Woodbine.

It was the coming of these letters which had caused the excitement at
Woodbine as the boys and girl were about to go for the morning mail,
Athol upon his little thoroughbred, Royal, Archie mounted upon his own
handsome hunter, Snowdrift, and Beverly on a wiry little broncho which
had been sent to her by an old friend of the Admiral's who had become the
owner of a ranche in Arizona. The friend had assured Admiral Seldon that
"Apache" had been "thoroughly gentled," and Beverly, who had never known
the meaning of fear from the hour she could bestride a horse, had
welcomed him with delight. Whether the old Admiral had done likewise is
open to doubt, but Mrs. Ashby frankly protested. As a girl _she_ had
ridden every ridable thing upon the place but it was literally a horse of
another color when it came to the point of Beverly doing as she had done.
So Apache had been tolerated, not welcomed, by Mrs. Ashby, and having
been an eye-witness to some of the little beast's astonishing
performances when he first came two years before, she has exacted from
Beverly a promise to be very cautious when riding him. Until his arrival
Beverly had ridden Jewel, her fourteen-hand pony, and been quite content,
but Jewel's luster was dimmed by Apache's brilliant "shines," as old
Uncle Abel called his cavortings when feeling exceptionally fit from his
unaccustomed diet of oats and feed. Out in Arizona his food had consisted
of alfalfa grass with an occasional "feed" thrown in, so it is not
surprising that the new order of high living somewhat intoxicated him.
But Apache had won his place at Woodbine.

As the young people were about to set forth upon their two-mile trip for
the mail Mrs. Ashby warned:

"Now Beverly be careful, dear. Apache has a lively tickle in his toes
this crisp morning, and besides the roads are terribly muddy and slippery
from last night's shower."

"I'll be careful mumsey dear," answered the girl, as she ran down the
steps to spring upon her mount.

"Careful and _no_ racing with the boys, remember," Mrs. Ashby called
after her.

Perhaps Beverly did not hear the concluding admonition. At any rate we'll
give her the benefit of the doubt, for at that moment Apache gave
testimony of the tickle in his toes by springing straight up into the air
in as good an imitation of a "buck" as any "thoroughly gentled" little
broncho could give in the polite society of his aristocratic Virginia
cousins. Mrs. Ashby gave a startled exclamation, but Beverly, secure in
her seat, waved a merry good-by and was off after the boys who were
calling to her to "hurry up."

Of course they had not heard one word of the foregoing conversation. Had
they done so it is safe to say that they would never had proposed the
two-mile race to the post office nor tormented Beverly for being "no sort
of a sport," and "scared to back her painted plug against their
thoroughbreds." They were honorable lads and would have felt honor-bound
to respect Mrs. Ashby's wishes. But not having heard, they gave Beverly
"all that was coming to her for riding a calico nag," though said "nag"
was certainly a little beauty.

Nearly a quarter of the distance to Four Corners had been ridden when
Beverly's temper, never too elastic, snapped. Her riding crop descended
with a thwack, first upon Royal's round flank, then upon Snowdrift's and
finally upon Apache's side as she cried:

"You-all hush up and _ride_. I'll beat you to Four Corners or die in the
attempt!"

The sudden onslaught brought the result to be expected. The two
thoroughbreds plunged forward with snorts of indignant protest, answered
by Apache's very plebian squeal of rage as he shook his bony little head
and struck into a gait such as Beverly had never dreamed a horse could
strike. It was like a tornado let loose, and, expert little horsewoman
that she was, she found ample occupation for all her wits and equestrian
skill, though she managed to jerk out as she whirled past her companions:

"Two pounds of Huyler's candy if I _do_ beat those giraffes of yours."

Hence the commotion at Four Corners a few moments later, the whirlwind
arrived and the conversation recorded in the first chapter.

"Mr. Telford, have you got any Huyler boxes?" asked the winner of the
race, resting her gauntleted hands and her riding crop upon the counter.
"These boys are trying to make me take two pounds of cinnamon suckers on
a bet. Did you ever hear such nonsense? I couldn't eat them in a year and
real, sure-enough bets mean something better than suckers."

"Wall, Miss Bev'ly, I aint rightly knowin' what kind o' lollypops is in
them boxes, most times folks jist helps theirselves an' I don't pay no
'tention ter the brand. It's all candy, I reckon," answered the shop
keeper, drawing two or three boxes from his case and placing them upon
his counter. From the appearance of the wrappings they belied Huyler's
advertisement of being "fresh every hour," though one of the boxes bore
that firm's name. The others were stamped by Martha Washington, Lowney
and one or two other widely known manufacturers.

"Yes this one's Huyler's but I've got to have _two_ this time. Yes I have
too! Athol's got to put up for one and you for the other. Why just look
at me! The mud on me ought to just naturally make you both _want_ to do
something to pay up for making me get into such a state."

"We didn't make you! You started the circus," protested her brother.

"Blessed if I'd do a thing for you if it wasn't likely to be the last
race we'll have in one while. Look at _those_," interjected Archie Carey,
coming over from the letter window where he had gone to ask for the mail
and slamming upon the counter beside the boxes of candy half a dozen
plump letters. Three bore the addresses of the schools under
consideration. All three faces grew sober.

"I'll bet those will settle your hash Bev," was Athol's comment.

"Ah, why couldn't you have been a boy instead of a girl anyhow,"
protested Archie. "Then you'd have come along with us as a matter of
course and our good times wouldn't have all been knocked into a cocked
hat."

"Come on. Let's go home," said Beverly soberly, as she gathered up her
boxes, nodded to Mr. Telford, and took her mud-splashed self from the
store, the boys lingering to pay the bill.

She had remounted Apache when they joined her, Archie carrying the
letters which he stuffed viciously into the mail-bag strapped to his
saddle. Then the two boys sprang upon their waiting horses. As they rode
in silence Beverly glanced down at her khaki riding skirt and at Apache's
mud-splashed body, and the next moment had stopped short, exclaiming:

"Look at us, and I promised mother I wouldn't race!"

"You did!" exclaimed the boys in duet.

"I sure did," she repeated with a solemn nod.

This was too much for her companions and the woodland bordering the road
echoed to their shouts. When they had regained some self-control Athol
asked:

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Do? I'm going to stop at the branch and scrub some of this mud off
Apache and myself, for if we show up like this mother will think I've
been acting ten times worse that I really have, though goodness knows
it's bad enough as it is. I didn't mean to break my promise, but I
couldn't let you boys put it all over me like you did and not get back at
you. Now get out of the way while I clean up, and maybe you could do a
little on your own accounts and not suffer for it either. 'Snowdrift!' He
looks exactly like one after a spring thaw."

The boys glanced at the beautiful white horse and then at each other. The
ensuing fifteen minutes were spent in the vigorous grooming of their
steeds, Beverly scrubbing Apache as energetically as Archie and Athol did
Royal and Snowdrift. Flat sticks served as scrapers and bunches of dry
grass for cloths. When the animals looked a little less like animated mud
pies Beverly turned her attention to her riding skirt. To restore that to
its pristine freshness might have daunted a professional scourer. The
more she rubbed and scrubbed the worse the result and finally, when she
was a sight from alternate streaks of mud and wet splotches, she sprang
upon the startled Apache crying:

"Come along home quick! If I've got to face the music the quicker it's
done the better," and was off down the road in a fair way to being as
muddy when she reached Woodbine as she was when she began her cleansing
processes at the branch, while up in one of the dormer windows of the big
house her mother stood smiling to herself. It was one of the rare
occasions when she had occasion to go to that room for some stored away
winter clothing against Beverly's pending departure for boarding school.
As the riders resumed their homeward journey she smiled and said softly:

"How exactly like Beverly. Now will come confession and repentance and
shall I be able to keep a sober face?"




                               CHAPTER IV

                              DIVIDED WAYS


"Yes, I just forgot all about it, for of course I wasn't going to let the
boys run me to death, and oh, mother, Apache can get over the ground! I
never saw anything like the way he ran."

"No, neither have _I_," replied Mrs. Ashby significantly.

"You!" asked Beverly in surprise.

Mrs. Ashby nodded though her lips twitched.

Beverly's face clouded and her lips set.

"How did you see me?" she demanded.

"From the window of the north-east dormer chamber."

The girl's dark eyes grew darker and signs of a pending tempest lowered
as she asked:

"Mother did you go up there to spy upon me? You almost _never_ go into
that room. Didn't you believe me? Did you think I had to be watched? I
think that was horrid, horrid of you. You know I didn't mean to break my
word. I just forgot when the boys teased me about my calico plug and
_you_ wouldn't have stood for that if you'd been in my place. You just
know you wouldn't. You used to do crazier things when you were a girl for
Uncle Athol has told me just dozens and dozens of them. Why did you spy
upon me? Why? Why? I loathe being distrusted."

The storm had burst with a vengeance.

"Beverly hush and listen to me. If you will pause a moment you will know
perfectly well that I had no idea of 'spying' upon you. Have I ever done
so? You know better. It seems to me you are displaying some doubt also.
If I did not know it to be the outcome of your excitement I should
decline to make any explanation. As it is I'll tell you that I went up
there to get out your winter things in order to have them remodeled. By
chance I looked out of the window--it is a view rather worth looking
upon, you'll admit--and, well I saw a moving picture instead of the usual
quiet landscape and it was 'going some' as Athol would say." Mrs. Ashby
smiled involuntarily as she recalled the spirited action of that moving
picture.

"Yes wasn't it?" cried Beverly eagerly. "And, oh that little Apache is
some horse, mumsey."

Then her face resumed its defiant expression and she continued: "But I
showed them that they couldn't put it all over me and not pay for it.
They got the try-out of their lives and _I_ got two pounds of _decent_
candy if I did get some mud into the bargain. I'd have come home to tell
you anyway; you _know_ I would don't you?"

"Have I intimated a doubt of it, dear?" The tone was very disarming, and
warm-hearted, quick tempered just-souled little Beverly succumbed.
Throwing her arms about her mother's neck she buried her head upon her
shoulder as she sobbed.

"Oh, do forgive me. I was the horrid one for doubting you and saying such
nasty things. Please give me bally hack and send me away to school quick.
Then maybe I'll learn to think twice before I sass once, as Mammy Riah
says. I reckon what I need is a good strict schoolmarm to boss me
'round."

"I hope the 'bossing' element will be absent from the school we shall
choose. I doubt it would work very well with you, Beverly. Sparks and
gunpowder are apt to lead to pretty serious explosions and I dislike
pyrotechnics which are likely to spread disaster. Now go change your
clothes and make yourself presentable for I hear Uncle Athol calling and
I dare say the momentous question is about to be answered. But what am I
going to do without my little whirlwind to keep things stirring?" ended
Mrs. Ashby, tenderly drawing the penitent into her arms.

"And oh, mumsey, mumsey where shall I ever find any one who will be as
patient with the whirlwind? I suspect I'm going to be desperately
homesick more days than once. But I'll truly, truly try not to disgrace
you and Woodbine. Yes, we're coming Uncle Athol," as the Admiral's
stentorian tones came booming up the broad stairway.

"Mary Beverly, come along quick and hear these letters. Lord save us, I'd
rather run a blockade than choose a school for a couple of youngsters.
I'll be gray, dead and buried before it's done! Come down I say."

"We are coming Uncle," called Mrs. Ashby, laughing softly as she pictured
the gray-haired old Admiral striding up and down the wide hall
anathematizing all the schools in creation and launching side shots at
the boys because they were laughing at him. His roar was far worse than
his attack as the lads well knew, as sitting--no, sprawling--upon the big
claw-foot sofa they did not hesitate to let fly a projectile or two in
return, only to howl at the result, for well both knew his weakness for
his grandniece. "She could wind him around her little finger," they said.

A moment later Mrs. Ashby appeared at the top of the landing to be
greeted by:

"Come and hear these letters. Where's Beverly?"

"She will be down as soon as she changes her riding skirt."

The boys snickered.

Turning upon them the Admiral demanded:

"What are you young scamps chortling about?"

"Bev," answered his nephew. "Did you see her when she came in?"

"Now what was the matter with her? She's usually all right."

"Oh, nothing. Just a trifle muddy. Mother can describe her appearance
better than we can I reckon," laughed Athol, Jr.

The Admiral bent his keen eyes upon the boys. He was a handsome old
gentleman and wonderfully well-preserved for his seventy-three years.

"And I'll lay a wager you fellows started the ball rolling and Beverly
had to brace up and stop it," he nodded.

"We didn't! Honest, Uncle Athol, we didn't! Did we Arch?"

"Ask Bev. Here she comes," laughed Archie pointing toward the stairs down
which a demure, spick and span, duck-clothed young lady was making her
way with all the propriety of a young boarding-house-miss-in-the-making.

Instantly Athol had sprung to his feet and was mincing along behind the
Admiral in such perfect mimicry of his sister that Archie hooted. Beverly
scorned to notice the by-play and asked:

"Do you want me Uncle Athol?"

"Yes, come along into my study for this er-er--well perplexing question
is going to be settled right here and now."

Realizing that the settling meant a separation for a shorter or longer
time, and for a greater or less distance, however determined, the boys
sobered down and followed the others into the study.

There is no use going into details. The letters were duly read and
discussed and it was decided that early the next morning Admiral Seldon
and Mrs. Ashby should visit two of the schools, those nearest Sprucy
Branch being selected.

"And please, Uncle Athol, choose Leslie Manor. It's so near Kilton Hall
that the boys can ride over to see me and I can go to see them," begged
Beverly, clasping her hands about her great-uncle's arm and looking up
into his face in a manner to coax the birds off the bushes.

He drew her into his circling arm and turning her face up to his asked,
as he kissed the soft lips.

"And how in kingdom come do you suppose _I'm_ going to get on without
your coming to see me often, you torment of my soul. And how do you
expect the boys to cover those ten miles between Leslie Manor and Kilton
Hall, much less you? And a pretty stir-up it would make if you were to go
to their school, wouldn't it, you huzzy."

"Why, I'm Athol's sister, and almost Archie's too. Why couldn't I go?
We'll have our horses, of course."

"Lord bless my soul, are you counting on moving the whole of Woodbine up
yonder?" asked the Admiral in dismay.

"Why no, Uncle Athol, but of course we must take Snowdrift, Royal and
Apache," answered Beverly as a matter of course. Whereupon Archie and
Athol, standing just behind the Admiral, and Beverly fell upon each
other's necks. Such an idea as taking their horses with them had never
for a moment entered the boy's heads.

"Well, we'll see; We'll see," temporized the old gentleman, "No" seeming
to have been left out of the vocabulary he employed in speaking to
Beverly.

An hour was spent in discussing the subject pro and con and at its end
Admiral Seldon cried:

"Quit running on dead reckoning and tell Mammy Riah to pack our grips, for
your mother and I are off on the eight-thirty from Sprucy Branch and that
means stepping lively tomorrow morning, Mary. And I want Uncle Abel to
understand that the carriage is to be at the door at seven-thirty,--_not
nine-thirty_."

And so the die was cast. At seven-thirty the following morning the
carriage accompanied by the three most interested in what the verdict
would be upon its return, sped down the broad driveway, the leaves which
had fallen during the night crinkling beneath the wheels, the carriage
horses cutting all sorts of antics in sympathy with their saddle
companions cavorting beside them, for the young people were acting as
body guard.

It was not at all likely that the older people would return that night,
for train service was limited, so all preparations were made for an
overnight trip.

Bidding them good-by at the railway station Beverly, Athol and Archie
rode back to Woodbine, in no mood for one of their wild stampedes. The
real parting was too close at hand.

That day and evening seemed the longest to Beverly that she had ever
known. Archie was to spend the night at Woodbine, and Aunt Caroline,
Mammy Riah and Earl Queen, the butler, did their best to make up for the
absence of the heads of the house, but it surely was a sober little group
which sat down at the brightly polished mahogany dining table. Beverly in
her mother's seat, Athol in his uncle's and Archie as guest. Aunt
Caroline had sent up her daintiest preserves and had prepared a supper
"fitten' for a queen," she averred. Her fried chicken would have put
Delmonico's to shame and her hot waffles were "lak ter fly up offen de
dish I serve 'em on," was Queen's affirmation as he took them from her,
but nothing was eaten with its usual relish.

At ten the next morning came a long distance phone call from Admiral
Seldon.

Beverly reached the phone first.

"And it's all settled? Which one? Leslie Manor? Good! And Ath's going to
Kilton Hall? Oh, splendid! You'll be down on the three o'clock train?
Meet you? Of course. Yes, I'll tell the boys. Mother sends love? Give her
ours and tell her we are all right and have been as good as gold.
Good-by!" and the phone was hung up with a snap as Beverly spun round and
catching the one nearest at hand who happened to be Archie, turkey
trotted him the length of the big hall before she'd end their curiosity.

And thus came the selection of the two schools. Athol with Archie at
Kilton Hall, and Beverly at Leslie Manor, ten miles away, and near one of
the most wonderful and beautiful caprices of that capricious lady Dame
Nature, that human eye is ever likely to rest upon.

They were to leave Woodbine and Uplands on the last day of September, as
the school term began October first, the intervening days being full of
the excitement incident to their departure.

The thirtieth of September came at once too rapidly and too slowly, and
dawned crisp and clear; a good omen for the start.

Good-bys were said to the servants, Mrs. Ashby was embraced tempestuously
by Beverly and given a bear hug by Athol, Archie shook hands and all
three followed Admiral Seldon in to the waiting carriage, to wave
good-bys to Mrs. Ashby who stood upon the south portico, and to all the
servants gathered in the south colonnade.

Then Mrs. Ashby re-entered the silent house, went upstairs to Beverly's
deserted room, dropped into a chair beside her bed and burying her head
in the tumbled pillow wept like a girl.

A moment later Mammy Riah entered the room, caught sight of the weeper,
grabbed up an old muddy shoe of Beverly's and raining tears into it
forthwith raised a genuine darkey wail of woe which very nearly turned
Mrs. Ashby's tears into hysterics.




                                CHAPTER V

                              LESLIE MANOR


It was the opening day at Leslie Manor. Late the evening before the last
girl had come straggling reluctantly back after a long summer vacation.
This morning all was hustle and bustle. At the rear of the building the
last trunks were being bumped down from the express wagon which had
brought them from the railway station, and under the direction of Wesley
Watts Mather, the dusky porter, janitor and general handy man, were being
conveyed to the various rooms in which they and their owners would bide
for the ensuing eight months, for Leslie Manor did not open its doors to
its pupils until October first and closed them the first week in June.
This was at the option of Miss Woodhull, the principal, who went abroad
each June taking with her several of her pupils for a European tour, to
return with her enlightened, edified charges in September. It was a
pleasurable as well as a profitable arrangement for the lady who was
absolutely free of encumbrance and could do as she chose.

Leslie Manor had once been the home of a widely known southern family
whose fortunes had sadly decreased during the war and completely
evaporated after it. For several years the place was entirely deserted
and neglected, then Miss Woodhull, recently graduated from a New England
college, and fairly bristling with degrees, for which she had exchanged
the freshness, sweetness and spontaneity of youth and health, was ordered
to spend at least a year in the south in the doubtful hope of recovering
the youth and health.

Just where to find these valuable assets was the hardest question to
answer. Her only relatives were an elderly maiden aunt and an irascible
old uncle whose time was too filled with providing the wherewithal to
maintain a very elaborate establishment for a very vain wife and three
frivolous daughters, to leave any left over in which to think of the
welfare of his only sister's child. Moreover, his wife and daughters
could not endure her, and, truth to tell, they had about as much affinity
for one another as have oil and water. They might flow side by side
forever but never mingle.

The maiden aunt was her father's sister, an austere dignified old party
who resided most exclusively in her ancestral home on Beacon Street, and
lived in a rut worn _ages_ deep by tradition, conviction and self-will.
Virginia was, so-to-speak, heiress-presumptive. Not that she was likely
to be supplanted by the birth of some one having greater claim to her
aunt's fortune. Her possible rivals for the very substantial income which
her aunt enjoyed were foundling asylums, a new religious cult just then
in its infancy in the hub of the universe, and innumerable "movements"
and "reforms."

She had sent Virginia through college, provided her with a fair
allowance, bidden her make something of herself for the sake of her name
and then washed her hands of all responsibility. In her own sight she had
fulfilled all her duty. When Virginia Woodhull left ---- College after
attaining degrees galore, but in broken health, and with twenty-eight
years checked off upon her life's calendar, she seemed to have run plump
up against a stone wall.

Dozens of positions were almost forced upon her. Mentally she was
qualified to fill any of them, physically _not one_. Nor could she remain
near the only relatives she possessed had they even cared two straws to
have her remain.

While in this depressing state of mind and body a girl whom she had
coached in the college graduated and was about to return to her home in
Virginia. She was several years Virginia's junior, pretty, warm-hearted
and charming, and possessed the power of looking a little deeper below
the surface than the average human being possesses. She invited Miss
Woodhull to accompany her to Roanoke and fate stepped in and did the
rest. The month was spent in a lovely old home, Virginia Woodhull gained
in health and strength, and recovered something in the way of nerve
control and mental poise. When the month ended she decided to "do" the
state whose name she bore and spent the rest of the year in going from
one point to another in it until she knew its entire topography by heart.

In the course of her journeyings she visited the Luray Caverns as a
matter of course, and enroute came upon picturesque, deserted, decrepit
Leslie Manor, and fell as enthusiastically in love with it as it was
given to her repressed nature to fall in love.

Moreover, for a long time she had been obsessed with a desire to bring
into this happy, easy-going, contented state something of the energy,
progress, intellectual activities (as she gauged them) of New England.
The general uplift inspired by the seat of learning she had just left
after post-graduate courses unto the nth degree: To thoroughly stir
things up and make these comfortable, contented, easy-going Virginians
sit up and take notice of their shortcomings. She was given a work in
life, though quite unsought, and she meant to undertake it exactly as she
has undertaken her college course and make a fine job of it.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, according to the viewpoint taken, the aunt
in Boston was ceremoniously tucked away in the tomb of her ancestors just
as this resolution crystalized and Virginia Woodhull found herself in
possession of a very comfortable income, though said income had a string
attached to it which was intended to yank it back to the religious cult
before mentioned in the event of Virginia's _marriage_ or death. Either
way considered, it was a rather dubious heritage. But it served to
purchase Leslie Manor and the school became a fait accompli. This was in
the early eighties and from its opening day the school had flourished.
Perhaps this was due to New England energy and culture, or possibly some
credit rested with Mrs. Bonnell, the matron, and real head of the house;
a sweet lovable, gracious Southern gentlewoman whose own family and
fortunes had vanished when she was a tiny child, but who had grown up
with relatives in whose home love ruled supreme and in which the little
Veronica Dulany had blossomed as a flower. At forty years of age she
still retained a genuine love and understanding of her fellow-beings in
spite of many sorrows, and the death when she was still a mere girl of
husband and little daughter before she had been called Mrs. Percy Bonnell
five years.

At any rate, for ten years Mrs. Bonnell had ruled supreme at Leslie
Manor, engaging its servants as she saw fit, directing the household,
economizing as she felt wisest; feeding hungry girls, cuddling the
homesick ones, caring for the ailing ones, and loved by every creature
human or animal upon the place. Miss Woodhull had no time for domestic
matters and all the sentiment in her had been killed in her early
childhood.

And curiously enough the academic force at Leslie Manor was about equally
divided into Woodhull and Bonnell factions. Miss Stetson, the teacher of
mathematics was in keen sympathy with Miss Woodhull, as was Miss Forsdyke
the Latin teacher, and Miss Baylis, the teacher of history and
literature, but Miss Dalton the gymnasium and physical culture teacher,
and Miss Powell who had charge of the little girls, sided with Mrs.
Bonnell as did Monsieur Santelle, and old Herr Professor Stenzel. Even
Miss Juliet Atwell, who came twice each week for aesthetic dancing, and
several other stunts, openly worshiped at the Bonnell's shrine. Herr
Stenzel's admiration had more than once proved an embarrassing
proposition to the lady, for Herr Stenzel loved the flesh pots of Leslie
Manor and knew right well who presided over them. But Mrs. Bonnell was
equal to a good many Herr Stenzels.

But in one sense we have wandered a long way from Beverly Ashby and
opening day at Leslie Manor, though all these people vitally concern her.

Leslie Manor stood in the centre of a wide, rolling, thickly wooded
estate encompassed by a holly hedge noted for miles around for its beauty
and its prickly barrier to freedom. The house had been restored and added
to in order to meet the demands of a school harboring sixty or seventy
girls, though it still retained its old lines of beauty and its air of
hominess.

Miss Woodhull's first concern had been "to make the place sanitary," the
last word spelled with italics, and to this end modern improvements and
conveniences had supplanted the old, easy-going expedients of domestic
economy. Everything in Leslie Manor became strictly modern and
up-to-date. The upper floors were arranged in the most approved single
bed-chambers or suites for the teachers and the seniors, the lower ones
were accurately divided into living, dining and reception rooms. In one
wing were the model recitation rooms and Miss Woodhull's office; in
another the undergraduate's rooms. Nor had the grounds been overlooked.
They were very trim, very prim, very perfectly kept and made one realize
this at every turn. It also made one wonder how the old owner would feel
could he return from his nameless grave at Appomatox and be obliged to
pace along the faultless walks where formerly he had romped with his
children across the velvety turf. But he and his were dead and gone and
the spirit of New England primness, personified in Virginia Woodhull,
spinster aged fifty-seven, now dominated the place.

It was lovely to look upon, and compelled one's admiration, though it
left some indefinable longing unsatisfied. It was so orderly it almost
made one ache.

Perhaps something of this ache unconsciously obsessed Beverly Ashby as
she sat upon one of the immaculate garden seats, placed at the side of an
immaculate gravel walk, and looked through a vista of immaculately
trimmed trees at the dozens of girls _boiling_ out of the door of the
wing in which most of the undergraduate's rooms were situated, for all
members of the under classes were housed in the south wing, the seniors
rooming in the more luxurious quarters of the main building. Not that the
seniors were the happier for their exaltation. They had enjoyed some
pretty merry hours in that old south wing, but with the advent of the
senior year were forced to live up to the dignity of the main building.
The faculty occupied the north end of it.

Beverly had arrived the previous afternoon and, owing to the fact that
she had never been at school before in all her fifteen years, nor
journeyed very far afield from dear old Woodbine, she did not know a soul
at Leslie Manor so far as she now knew.

The parting of the ways when Athol and Archie bade her good-by at Front
Royal and, accompanied by Admiral Seldon, went on to Kilton Hall gave
Beverly an entirely new sensation. She then fully realized that she was
growing up and that the old happy-go-lucky days of boy and girl frolicking
were slipping into the background. That from that very spot where the
roads branched she must begin her journey toward young-ladyhood, as the
boys must begin theirs toward manhood, and the thought hurt like a
physical pain. She didn't want to grow up and leave those happy days
behind.

She had been met at Front Royal by one of the teachers who was returning
to the school. Beverly had tried to talk to her as she would have talked
with any one at home. But Miss Baylis did not encourage familiarity upon
the part of the pupils, and promptly decided that Beverly was one of
those irresponsible, impulsive Southern girls who always proved such
trials to her and Miss Woodhull before they could be brought to
understand strict conventions. Consequently, she had met Beverly's
warm-hearted, spontaneous manner with frigid politeness and had relieved
herself of the young girl's society the moment the school was reached.

Luckily, Beverly had fallen into Mrs. Bonnell's hands directly she
reached Leslie Manor, so some of the ice coating in which she had made
the five-mile drive from the railway station had been thawed by that
lovable lady. But she had passed a desperately lonely evening in her room
unpacking and getting settled, and had gone to bed in a frame of mind
rarely experienced by Beverly Ashby.

Her room-mate, like many other tardy ones, would not arrive until the
next day, and the whole atmosphere of the place spelled desolation for
Beverly.

Her first Waterloo had been encountered early that morning when, feeling
lonelier than she ever had felt in all her life, she dressed early and
ran out to the stable to visit Apache. He seemed as lonely and forlorn as
his little mistress and thinking to cheer him as well as herself, she had
led him forth by his halter and together they had enjoyed one grand
prance down the driveway. Unluckily, Miss Baylis had seen this harmless
little performance, and not being able to appreciate perfect human and
equine grace, had been promptly scandalized. It was at once reported to
Miss Woodhull and Beverly was informed that "such hoydenish actions
should be relegated to the uncultured herd."

Beverly did not ask whether she must number herself among that herd but
the fact had been implied nevertheless, and she smarted under what she
felt to be an unmerited and unduly severe rebuke, if not an open insult.

She was still smarting as she sat hidden in her nook, and sorely in need
of an antidote for the smart.

Presently it came in the homeopathic form of like curing like.




                               CHAPTER VI

                               NEW FRIENDS


Naturally, no real work was done on opening day. Miss Woodhull, stately
and austere sat in her office directing her staff with the air of an
empress. One of the old girls declared that all she lacked was a crown
and sceptre, and the new ones who entered that office to be registered,
"tagged" the above mentioned girl called it, came out of it feeling at
least three inches shorter than when they entered. During her reign in
Leslie Manor, Miss Woodhull had grown much stouter and one seeing her
upon this opening day would scarcely have recognized in her the slender,
hollow-eyed worn-out woman who had opened its doors to the budding
girlhood of the land nearly thirty years before. She was now a
well-rounded, stately woman who carried herself with an air of owning the
state of her adoption, and looked comparatively younger in her
fifty-eighth year than she had in her twenty-eighth.

As Beverly sat in her nook watching the little girls of the primary
grades run out to their playground at the rear of the building, the old
girls of the upper classes pair off and stroll away through the extensive
grounds, and the new ones drift thither and yonder like rudderless craft,
she saw two girls come from Miss Woodhull's office. One was a trifle
shorter than Beverly and plump as a woodcock. She was not pretty but
piquant, with a pair of hazel eyes that crinkled at the corners, a saucy
pug nose, a mouth like a Cupid's bow and a mop of the curliest red-brown
hair Beverly had ever seen. Her companion was tall, slight, graceful,
distinguished. A little aristocrat from the top of her raven black hair
to the tips of her daintily shod feet was Aileen Norman and though only
sixteen, she was the one girl in the school who could hold Miss Woodhull
within the limits of absolute courtesy under _all_ circumstances.
Although descended from New England's finest stock, Miss Woodhull also
possessed her full share of the New Englander's nervous irritability
which all the good breeding and discipline ever brought to bear can never
wholly eradicate. Her sarcasm and irony had caused more than one girl's
cheeks to grow crimson and her blood to boil under their stinging
injustice, for Miss Woodhull did not invariably get to the root of
things. She was a trifle superior to minor details. But Aileen possessed
an armor to combat just such a temperament and her companion, Sally
Conant's wits were sharp enough to get out of most of the scrapes into
which she led her friend. So the pair were a very fair foil to each other
and a match for Miss Woodhull. What their ability would prove augmented
by Beverly's characteristics we will learn later.

As they came down the steps from Miss Woodhull's office, said office,
by-the-by, being in the wing in which the recitation rooms were situated
and quite separate from the main building, Sally's eyes were snapping,
and her head wagging ominously; Aileen's cheeks were even a deeper tint
than they ordinarily were, and her head was held a little higher.
Evidently something of a disturbing nature had taken place. They did not
see Beverly in her bosky nook and she did not feel called upon to reveal
herself to them.

"It was all very well to stick _three_ of us together when we were
freshmen and sophomores, but juniors deserve _some_ consideration I
think. If Peggy Westfield had come back this year it would have been all
well and good, but to put a perfect stranger in that room is a pure and
simple outrage. Why we haven't even an idea what she's like, or whether
she'll be congenial, or nice, or--or--anything. Why couldn't she have
given us one of the girls we know?" stormed Sally.

"Because she likes to prove that she is great and we are small, I dare
say," answered Aileen. "Of course the new girl may be perfectly lovely
and maybe we'll get to like her a lot, but it's the _principle_ of the
thing which enrages me. It seems to me we might have some voice in the
choice of a room-mate after being in the school three years. There are a
dozen in our class from which we could choose the third girl if we've got
to have her, though I don't see why just you and I couldn't have a suite
to ourselves. Mercy knows there are enough rooms in our wing and next
year we'll have to be in the main house anyway, and I just loathe the
thought of it too."

"Ugh! So do I! But let's reconnoiter and try to spot our bugbear. I
wonder if it wouldn't be appropriate to call her by another name? We've
got to share our _rooms_ with her even if we haven't got to share our
bed. Why didn't the Empress tell us her name? the stubborn old thing!
Just 'a girl from Sprucy Branch will share your suite this year. She
arrived last evening and has already arranged her things in A of Suite
10.' A of course! The very nicest of the three bedrooms opening out of
that study and the only one which has sunshine all day long. You or I
should have had it. I don't call it fair. She's probably trying to make a
good impression upon Miss Sprucy Branch. The name sounds sort of
Japanesy, doesn't it? Wonder if she looks like a Jap too?"

"Well if you are speaking of me I can tell you right now that Miss
Woodhull hasn't succeeded in making any _too_ pleasing an impression upon
Miss Sprucy Branch and so far as keeping Room A in suite 10, is
concerned, either of you is welcome to it, because it would take just
mighty little to make me beat it for the stables, mount Apache, habit or
no habit, and do those thirty-five miles between this luck-forsaken place
and Woodbine in just about four hours, and that is allowing something for
the mountains too. Apache's equal to a good deal better time, but I
should hate to push him, when we were heading toward _home_. That would
pay up for any amount of delay. Thus far I haven't found Leslie Manor as
hospitable as our servant's quarters at Woodbine."

Beverly's cheeks were as red as Aileen's, and her eyes snapping as
menacingly as Sally's by the time she had come to the end of her very
deliberately uttered speech, though she had not moved a hair's breadth
upon her bench, nor had she changed her position. Her head was propped
upon her hand as her arm rested upon the back of the seat, but she was
looking straight at the astonished girls as she spoke.

Never had there been a more complete ambush sprung upon a reconnoitering
party, and for a moment both girls were speechless. It was Sally who
saved the day by springing away from Aileen and landing upon the seat
beside Beverly as she cried:

"Are _you_ to be our room-mate?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. I've got to be _somebody's_ I suppose and I've
been assigned A 10. And from your conversation, which I couldn't very
well help overhearing, you two seem to have been assigned B and C for
study 10. But I've just given vent to my point of view."

There was still a good bit of electricity in the atmosphere, but it must
be admitted that for the past eighteen hours Beverly had been pretty
steadily brushed the wrong way, and it was an entirely new experience for
her. Add to this a good dose of homesickness and a sense of utter loss at
her separation from Athol, and her present frame of mind is not difficult
to understand.

"Are you Beverly _Ashby_ of Woodbine?" persisted Sally, while Aileen
dropped down upon the seat beside Sally to listen.

"Yes," was the laconic if uncompromising reply.

"Well that's the best news I've heard since I left Richmond, and I'm just
tickled nearly to death!" exclaimed Sally, spinning about to hug Aileen
rapturously. This sudden change of base was so astonishing that Beverly's
sense of humor came to her rescue and she laughed.

Sally again pivoted toward her crying:

"Why I know you perfectly well! I've known you all my life! And you know
me just as well as I know you. Don't you know you do?"

"Not so that it overwhelms me," laughed Beverly.

"Where did you meet Miss Ashby?" asked Aileen who felt it was about time
she came in for this wholesale discovery of "auld acquaintance."

"Oh, I beg your pardon. This is Aileen Norman, the third girl for suite
10. She's from Charlottesville and ought to know your family too. I
reckon you know hers. Everybody does. Just like they know yours. Why your
mother and mine went to Catonsville to school together. Didn't you know
that? She was Sarah Wirt then. Why I think it's too lovely for words! And
we were just as mad as fury when we started out to hunt up the new girl
we had to room with this year and here you aren't a new girl at all but
one we've always known. Why I'm so tickled I'm foolish. Hug me Aileen or
it will all seem like a dream and I'll wake up and find we've got to
roost with someone like that stupid Electra Sanderson, or Petty Gordon,
who can't do a thing but talk about that midshipman at Annapolis to whom
she says she's engaged, and she's only just seventeen. She makes me
tired."

"I hope you'll forgive us for all we said as we came down the walk. We
certainly had no personal feeling as you must understand, but we were
pretty well stirred up over the idea of having to begin junior year with
someone we didn't know after having had the same room-mate for three
years," explained Aileen diplomatically, striving to pour a drop or two
of oil upon perturbed waters.

"I couldn't very well feel any resentment toward you or Miss Conant when
I didn't know either of you from Eve, and I'm sorry if I seemed to. The
truth is I was lonely and homesick and just ready to light into anybody.
Is Miss Woodhull always so high and mighty, and Miss Baylis so like an
iceberg?"

"Mercy, did you fall into her clutches the first jump? She's the limit!
Oh, Miss Woodhull's so deadly afraid she won't uphold the dignity of dear
Bosting and her Massy Alma Mater that she almost dies under the burden,
but thank goodness, we don't see much of her, and Miss Baylis is _such_ a
fool we laugh behind her back. She's trying to make herself solid with
the Empress because she thinks she will succeed to her honors when the
high and mighty lady retires. But she's harmless because all her airs and
graces are veneer. Give her one good scratch some day and you'll see how
thin the veneer really is. But come on up to No. 10, and let's get
settled. Neither Aileen nor I had any heart to do a thing until we found
out who had been popped into A. Cricky, but I'm glad it's _you_," and
slipping her arm through Beverly's right one while Aileen took possession
of the left, all three hurried toward the house, Sally announcing:

"We'll introduce you to all the nice girls and we'll call ourselves the
"Three Mousquetaires." There may not be any such word, but that doesn't
matter in the least: It's Frenchy and I _love_ French. And besides, we
mean to band together to fight for our rights and down oppression,"
asserted this young Jacobin, as arm in arm all three made their way to
the pretty suite allotted to them on the second floor of the wing, for
Beverly had entered Leslie Manor as a junior, her previous work under
Norman Lee having well fitted her to do so.




                               CHAPTER VII

                                A RUNAWAY


By the end of October, the golden month, and always beautiful in
Virginia, things had shaken into routine. During that time suite Number
10 had become one of the most popular in the school, as well as one of
the most attractive, for, to the intense satisfaction of the trio their
belongings were in as perfect harmony as themselves, Beverly's things
being pink, Sally's the softest green and Aileen's all white and gold.
Consequently all went merry as a marriage bell.

But there had been hours of intense longing upon Beverly's part for the
freedom of bygone days and Athol. The brother and sister had been
entirely too united in every way to find perfect compensation in the
companionship of others, however warm the friendships formed, and each
missed the other sorely. Of course letters had been exchanged during the
month, but letters are a poor substitute for the voice of those we love
best. Only Mrs. Ashby realized how intense was the brother's and sister's
longing to see each other. Archie, also, fumed under the enforced
separation and vowed that "something was going to break loose mighty
sudden if his people and Athol's didn't get busy and _do_ something."

Had Beverly been at liberty to ride Apache as formerly the ten miles
separating the two schools would have meant merely a jolly cross country
run, but she was only permitted to ride when the other girls rode, and
under the supervision of a groom who was held responsible for his
charges.

Nor had the boys been allowed to visit Beverly, the male sex being
regarded by Miss Woodhull as a sort of natural enemy whose sole aim in
life was to circumvent, deprive and rob hers of its just rights. Miss
Woodhull was essentially a militant suffragette and her stanch admirers,
Miss Baylis and Miss Stetson were her enthusiastic partisans. Miss
Atwell, the teacher of esthetic dancing and posing, who came thrice
weekly to instill grace into the graceless and emphasize it in those who
were already graceful, sat, so to speak, upon the fence, undecided which
way to jump. She inclined strongly to the strictly feminine attitude of
dependence upon the stronger sex, but was wise to the advantage of
keeping in touch with those occupying the seats of the mighty at Leslie
Manor.

At Kilton Hall rules were less stringent. The boys could ride every
afternoon if they chose and often did so, ranging the country far and
wide. Many a time they had gone tearing past Leslie Manor when the girls
were stived up within and been exasperated at being "so near and yet so
far," as an old song puts it. Hence Archie's frame of mind, and his
determination to change the existing state of affairs before long if
possible. Letters sent home by the boys and those Beverly wrote to her
mother were the seeds sown which the three hoped would later start the
"something doing." Meanwhile Beverly chafed under the restraint, and such
chafing generally leads to some sort of an outbreak.

It was Wednesday afternoon, October twenty-ninth, and riding-lesson day.
Every Wednesday and Saturday Andrew Jackson Jefferson, whose name was as
queer a combination as himself, for he seemed to be about half _horse_,
so wonderful was his understanding of those animals, and so more than
wonderful _theirs_ of him, took his "yo'ng sem'nary ladies a-gallopin'
th'oo de windin's ob de kentry roads," proud as a Drum Major of his
charges.

And well he might be, for Andrew Jackson Jefferson had not only entire
charge of the horses belonging to Leslie Manor, but he had bought them,
and he knew good horseflesh. So the Leslie Manor horses as well as the
half dozen boarded there by the students, were always a credit to the
school. Their coats shone like satin, their hoofs were spick and span, no
shoes ever clicked for want of the proverbial nail, fetlocks were trimmed
like a bridegroom's hair, and manes and forelocks brushed to the
silkiness of a bride's. Harness and bits were scrupulous. Jefferson knew
his business.

When Apache was sent to Leslie Manor he was such a contrast to the other
horses that Jefferson at first looked askance at him, but Apache was a
wise little beast. As a preliminary move he gently nozzled Jefferson,
then by way of showing him that he was not to be taken too seriously, he
flew up into the air, executed a wild fling and descended upon the exact
spot from which he had risen, which exhibition so tickled Jefferson that
he grinned broadly and announced to his underlings:

"Dat's some hawse! Yo' hyar me! Befo' he's done been in dis hyre stable a
week he gwine ter be eatin' outer ma hand," and Apache verified the
statement by becoming Jefferson's abject slave before four days had
passed, and Beverly basked in reflected glory, for was she not Apache's
"Yo'ng Mist'ess?"

"Kyant tech dat chile nothin' 'bout _ridin'_", was Jefferson's fiat when
he saw Beverly astride her little mouse-colored and white mount. "_She_
paht ob dat hawse!"

There had already been several riding lessons since school opened, and
each time Jefferson's delight in his newest charges increased. Born and
brought up with the race, Beverly knew how to handle the negroes, and
Jefferson as promptly became her slave as Apache had become his.

Now the prescribed route for these riding excursions was within a
five-mile radius of the school. "No further," said Miss Woodhull. Those
bounds seemed safe from encroachment upon the part of the Kilton Hall
students, even had their Wednesday and Saturday mornings and afternoons
not been entirely given over to athletics, thus precluding excursions
upon horseback.

As a rule Jefferson took out eight or ten girls, but this particular
Wednesday afternoon several had obtained permission to go to town with
Mrs. Bonnell to do some shopping, have some photographs taken, see the
dentists and what not, so the riders were reduced to Sally, Aileen, Petty
Gaylord, Hope MacLeod, a senior, and Beverly. All were well mounted and
each was looking her best in her trim habit.

It was customary for the party to stop at the porte cochere to be
inspected by Miss Woodhull, but on this particular afternoon Miss
Woodhull was absent at a social function in the neighborhood and the duty
devolved upon Miss Stetson, the teacher of mathematics, a strong-minded
lady with very pronounced views. She dressed as nearly like a man as was
compatible with law and decency, wore her hair short, and affected a
masculine stride. She came from Miss Woodhull's state.

Jefferson drew up his cavalcade of five and awaited the appearance of
Miss Stetson whom he despised with all your true negro's power to despise
"white folks what doesn't know dey is white." Miss Stetson insisted upon
calling him Mr. Jefferson, affirming that "the race never _could_ be
self-respecting or, indeed, wholly emancipated, until treated as the
equals of the white race."

She now strode out upon the piazza, cast a critical eye upon the horses,
nodded and said:

"Very fit. Very fit. Quite in order. You are to be commended Mr.
Jefferson, but er--isn't there something a little peculiar in the
appearance of your horses' er--er--headgear? Their _eyes_ seem to be
exposed more than usual; and look somewhat bare, so to speak. Can it be
possible that you have forgotten something?"

"Fergot?" queried Jefferson, looking from one animal to the other. "Ah
cyant see nothin' I'se done fergot, Miss Ste'son. What it look lak ain't
on de hawses, ma'am?"

"Why their eyes seem so prominent. They seem to _see_ too much, er--"

Beverly was attacked with a sudden paroxysm of coughing. Jefferson nearly
disgraced himself, but managed to stammer:

"We doesn't ingen'ally put blinders on de saddle hawses, Miss, but ef yer
says so I'll tak 'em long back ter de stables an' change de saddle
headstalls fer de _kerridge_ ones, tho' it sure would look mighty
cur'ous."

"No! No! Certainly not. It was merely a remark in passing. You are the
better judge of the requirements I dare say," and Miss Stetson beat a
hasty retreat, entirely forgetting to warn her charges against venturing
beyond bounds.

Could she have seen Beverly's lips set she might have grown suspicious.
The riding party started, Jefferson muttering:

"Ma Lawd! dat 'oman suah do make me tired. Blinders on ma saddle hawses!
Huh! '_Mr_. Jefferson'. Reckon I bettah tek ter callin' her Sis'
Angeline," Angeline being Miss Stetson's christian name.

When the grounds of the school were left a few miles behind her Beverly
drew up to Sally's side and said significantly:

"She did not tell us to keep within bounds."

"She forgot to. She was too busy missing the blinders," laughed Sally.
Beverly laughed softly and continued:

"You girls hold in your horses when we've gone a little further. I want
to ride on ahead with Jefferson. I've a word to say and I've an idea he
is in a receptive mood."

"What are you up to, Bev?" asked Aileen.

"Just watch out. We'll take a new route today unless I'm much mistaken,"
and touching Apache lightly with her heel she cavorted to Jefferson's
side. He had been too absorbed in his thoughts of Miss Stetson to leave
room for any others: Your darkie is not unlike a horse in that respect;
his brain is rarely capable of holding _two_ ideas at once. Perhaps that
explains why darkies and horses are usually in such accord.

As Apache careened against Jumbo's side the big horse gave a plunge
forward which jerked Jefferson's wits back to his surroundings. That was
exactly what Beverly wished.

"Lor' Miss Bev'ly, you done scare Jumbo an' me foolish," he exclaimed,
striving to bring Jumbo down to his usual easy pace, for the tall hack
had resented the little broncho's familiarity, though he could not know
that his own grandsire and Apache's were the same.

"Jefferson, will you do something to please me this afternoon?" she asked
eagerly.

"I shore will if it aint gwine ter get me into no fuss wid de Misses,"
temporized Jefferson.

"It won't get you into any fuss with anybody. Miss Woodhull is not at
home and Miss Stetson was too busy trying to find out where the horses
had lost their blinders to tell us _not_ to take the road to Kilton
Hall."

Jefferson almost chortled.

"So, when we come to that road will you turn down it and leave the rest
to me? And don't be surprised or frightened at anything Apache may do."

"I aint scared none at what you an' dat hawse doin'. He's got sense
and--" added Jefferson with concession--"so has you. I aint got no time
ter be a troublin' 'bout you-all. It's dese yo'ng ladies I has ter bat my
eyes at; an' dey shore do keep me busy sometimes. Now what I tell you?
Look at dat?" and as though in sympathy with Beverly's schemes, Chicadee,
the little mare Petty Gaylord was riding chose that moment to shy at some
leaves which fluttered to the ground and, of course, Petty shrieked, and
then followed up the shriek with the "tee-hee-hee," which punctuated
every tenth word she spoke whether apropos or not.

That was exactly the cue Beverly needed. A slight pressure of her knee
upon Apache's side was sufficient. He was off like a comet, and to all
intents and purposes entirely beyond his rider's control.

Sally and Aileen laughed outright. Petty stopped her giggle to scream:
"Oh, she's being run away with!"

"Not so much as it would seem," was Hope MacLeod's quiet comment as she
laid in place a lock of Satin Gloss's mane, and quieted him after his
sympathetic plunge.

"Well ef she is, she _is_, but I'm bettin' she knows whar she a-runnin'
_at_," said Andrew Jackson Jefferson more quietly than the situation
seemed to warrant. "But just de same I'm thinkin' we might as well fool
oursefs some," and he hastened his pace, the others doing likewise. It
would never do to let one of his charges be run away with and not make an
effort to save her from a possible calamity.




                              CHAPTER VIII

                                CLIMAXES


Meanwhile the runaways were having the very time of their lives. Not
since that two-mile race to Four Corners for the letter which proved the
wedge to divide her own and Athol's ways, had Beverly been able to "let
out a notch," as she put it. Nor had the little broncho been permitted to
twinkle his legs as they were now twinkling over that soft dirt road.
Virginia roads were made for equestrians, _not_ automobiles. Head thrust
forward as far as his graceful slender neck permitted, ears laid back for
the first unwelcome word to halt, eyes flashing with exhilaration, and
nostrils wide for the deep, full inhalations and exhalations which sent
the rich blood coursing through each pulsing artery, little Apache was
enjoying his freedom as much as his rider. In two seconds they were at
the top of a rise of ground, down at the further side and out of sight of
the others. Then, to make the exhibition realistic, Beverly drew out her
hat pin, gave it a toss to the side of the road, and the wind completed
the job by whisking her soft felt hat off her head and landing it upon
the roadside bush.

Oh, it was glorious! Five miles? What were five miles to the little
beastie which had many a time pounded off twenty-five without turning a
hair? Or to Beverly who had often ridden fifty in one day with Uncle
Athol and her brother? Just a breather. And when there swept through the
gateway of Kilton Hall a most exalted, hatless, rosy-cheeked,
dancing-eyed lassie mounted upon a most hilarious steed, the gate-keeper
came within an ace of having apoplexy, for she was a portly old body.

But Beverly did not pause for explanations. Her objective point was the
athletic field at the rear of the building and her appearance upon it
might have been regarded in the light of a distinct sensation. It would
never do to forsake too promptly the role of being run away with. There
were coaches and referees upon tennis court, cinder path and football
field, and boys galore, in every sort of athletic garb, performing every
sort of athletic stunt.

When Beverly set out to do anything she rarely omitted any detail to make
it as near perfect as possible. As she tore across the lawn which led to
the field her sharp eyes discovered Athol upon one of the tennis courts
and closer at hand a lot of other boys sprinting, gracefully or
otherwise, around the cinder path, taking hurdles placed about a hundred
feet apart.

Now, if there was one thing in this world upon which Apache and his young
mistress agreed more entirely than another, it was the pure delight of
skimming over a fence. A five-footer was a mere trifle. The three-foot
hurdles upon the cinder path a big joke. The tennis nets? Pouf!

If Beverly really was tugging upon Apache's bridle he was not permitting
anything so trivial as a girl's strength to bother him, and her knees
told him quite a different story as he swept upon the cinder path, took
two hurdles like a deer and was off over the tennis courts and over a net
before the astonished players could draw a full breath.

Then they woke up!

"It's a runaway!" cried Mr. Cushman, who had charge of the football
coaching, to be echoed by the tall quarter back in football togs, as both
broke away in pursuit, the whole field quickly taking the alarm also. But
that tennis court held one individual whose wits worked as quickly as the
star performer's, and there and then shrilled across it a high-pitched,
peculiar whistle which they both knew mighty well, and the four-legged
one obeyed instanter by wheeling so suddenly that he put a very realistic
climax upon the scene by nearly unseating the two-legged one, as he tore
pell mell for the whistler and came to a sudden halt in front of him, to
the increased astonishment of the general audience.

"Gee whiz, Bev! What's let loose?" cried Athol, trying to respond to
Apache's nozzling, whinnying demonstrations of delight and reach his
sister's extended hands at the same time, while Archie did his
record-breaking sprint across the gridiron, and the whole field came
boiling toward them.

"_I_ have. Don't you see I've been run away with? It's lucky Apache
turned in here," answered Beverly, with remarkable calmness for one so
lately escaped from disaster or sudden death, as she brushed back her
flying locks, for--well--reasons.

"Run away nothing! _You_ run away with! Piffle. Ah, cut it out Apache! I
know you're ready to throw a fit at seeing me, but keep bottled up for a
minute, won't you?" he ended as Apache lay hold of his tennis shirt and
tried to jerk him into attention. But he gave the bony little head a
good-natured mauling nevertheless, as Archie rushing up exclaimed:

"You're a winner, Bev!" Then the others surrounded them, the two coaches
really concerned lest the young lady had suffered some mishap, and Mr.
Cushman brushing the boys aside as he asked:

"Are you faint? Can we be of any assistance?" and Mr. Ford, the new
instructor from Yale and mighty good to look upon (so decided Beverly in
the space of one glance) pressed to her side to ask: "Were you riding
alone when your mount bolted?"

Before Beverly could draw breath to reply the answer came from another
quarter.

Now there is no such accomplished actor, (or liar) upon the face of the
round world as your genuine darkey. Indeed he can do both so perfectly
that he actually lives in the characters he temporarily creates and
believes his own prevarications, and that, it must be admitted, is _some
achievement_.

When Beverly departed so suddenly upon her self-elected route, Jefferson
naturally had but a very hazy idea of her intentions. He knew Kilton Hall
lay over five miles straight ahead, and he knew, also that Beverly's
brother was at school there, but Jefferson did not possess an analytical
mind: It could not out-run Apache. He knew, however, that he must put up
a pretty good bluff if he wished to save his kinky scalp upon his return
to Leslie Manor, so he set about planning to "hand out dat fool 'oman a
corker." Moreover, Petty was inclined to take the situation seriously.
Petty was sweetly romantic, but stupidly literal. At times a hopeless
combination. The riding party had cantered along in the fleeing Beverly's
wake for a little more than a mile when Petty spied the hat upon the
bush. Nothing further was needed to confirm her misgivings.

"She _has_ been run away with, girls! She has! I think it's perfectly
awful not to ride faster. She may be lying on the road d-e-a-d-!"

By this time Jefferson thought it might be politic to manifest more
concern, so throwing a well-assimilated anxiety into voice and manner he
said hastily:

"Now you fo' yo'ng ladies jist come 'long careful an' orderly, so's not
ter bring no mo' trebbulations, 'pon us an' I'll light out fer dat
run-way. Ma Lawd, I'se been clar distracted fer de las' ten minutes fer
ter know which-a-way ter tu'n! I aint really believe Miss Bev'ly is in no
danger 'twell Miss Petty done got me so sympathizin', but now I'se shore
rattled an' I'se gwin' ter find out fer sartin. Come on yo' Jumbo! Wo'k
yo' laigs fer fair," and under touch of the spur the big horse broke into
a gait which bade fair to speedily overhand the scapegraces, _providing
Jefferson let him do so_.

A turn in the road simplified the problem.

"Now don' yo' tak ter sweatin' yo'self so's I has ter spend a hull hour
a-coolin' yo' down," admonished Jefferson when well out of sight. "We'll
git there, an' when we does we'll mak' one fair show down," and thereupon
Jefferson restrained his steed to a long swinging run which told off the
miles without making him turn a hair until Kilton Hall was in sight.
_Then_ the dusky actor and his mount prepared to make their spectacular
entré. Pulling up at the roadside Jefferson threw his cap upon the
ground, twisted his tie awry, and let fly the belt of his riding blouse,
then dismounting, he caught up a few handfuls of dust and promptly
transformed big bay Jumbo into as disreputable looking a horse as dust
rubbed upon his muzzle, his chest and his warm moist flanks could
transform him. It was this likely pair which came pounding across the
athletic field of Kilton Hall at the moment of Mr. Ford's question, the
human of the species, with eyes rolling until they were nearly all
whites, shouting as he drew near:

"My Lawd-a-mighty, Miss Bev'ly, is yo' hu't? Is yo' daid?"

It was a good enough bit of acting to have won the actor fame and
fortune. As a matter of fact, Beverly gave one glance at the fly-away
figure, then clasping both arms around Apache's neck, buried her face in
his mane and to all intents and purposes collapsed into a paroxysm of
tears, to the entire dismay of Mr. Cushman, and the skeptical "sizing up"
of the situation by Mr. Ford, more lately from the campus. It was Athol
who promptly turned a few handsprings behind their backs and Archie who
rolled over upon the grass chortling.

"Don't be alarmed! Don't be alarmed, my good man. Your young lady is none
the worse for her involuntary run (just here a distinct snort came from
the ground behind Mr. Cushman) though I dare say a little unstrung and
exhausted. But we stopped her mount ("yes you did!" came sotto voce from
Athol) and now we will lead your mistress back to the house where Mrs.
Kilton will be delighted to minister to her comfort. Are you too nervous
to ride to the rear entrance, Miss Ashby?" for during the few words
spoken Mr. Cushman had discovered that this was Athol Ashby's sister, had
the resemblance left any doubt of that fact.

Beverly resumed an upright position, hastily wiped away her tears, (one
_can_ laugh as well as weep them) and answered:

"Oh, no sir. Of course I was a little startled at first, but Apache is
never vicious, and it was only the need of exercise which made
us--_him_--bolt, you know."

The acrobat came to an upright position and very nearly upset the whole
show.

Meantime Jefferson with many flutterings and gesticulations, had
dismounted and managed to work his way to Archie's side and whisper:

"Don't yo' let on, will yo' suh?"

"Not on your sweet life. It's the best ever. But where's the rest of the
bunch? There must _be_ some. You always take out a full fledged
seminary."

"Praise Gawd der aint but fo' dis time, an' dey's yander on de pike
some--'ers. But I'se near scared blue."

"Gray, you mean. Keep cool. I'll fix it all right. Oh, Mr. Cushman the
groom had to leave the other young ladies back yonder on the road and
he's a good bit upset about it. Hadn't he better ride back to them?
They'll be scared blue you know."

"Certainly. Certainly. By all means. Return to them at once. This young
lady will be carefully looked after," and Jefferson lost no time in
going.

"You'd better bring the whole outfit--I--er--I mean you'd better bring
the other young ladies to the Hall," called Mr. Ford, deciding that if
Beverly was a sample of the Leslie Manor girls it would be just as well
to see more of the material. Had he caught the sudden flash in Archie's
eyes perhaps he would have grown a bit wiser.

Twenty minutes later all five girls were seated in Mrs. Kilton's cozy
living room, the boys, and the instructors who had shifted into
drawing-room garments in record time, serving hot chocolate and little
iced cakes.

As they were not expected home until five anyway there was no cause for
concern. There would be no alarm at Leslie Manor. Meanwhile Jefferson,
who had looked after the horses, was holding the floor in the servant's
quarters. If a report of that afternoon's experiences did reach Leslie
Manor he meant to have first scoop.

After an hour spent very delightfully, for Mr. Ford was attention itself
to Beverly, to Archie's ill-concealed disgust, Hope MacLeod advised a
move toward home. As they were about to start Beverly asked sweetly:

"Oh, dear Mrs. Kilton, would you mind if Athol showed me his room? You
know we have never before in all our lives been separated and I get so
homesick for him and his traps it just seems as though I couldn't stand
it."

"Why of course you may go up, my dear," smiled kindly Mrs. Kilton. She
was too wholesome to see the least impropriety in so simple a request.

"Oh, hold on a second, Ath. Keep her a minute until I rush up and stow a
few of our duds. We didn't stop to slick things up when we shifted," and
Archie bounded away.

"Come on now, Bev. I reckon he's had time to make Number 70 presentable,"
said Athol three minutes later, and the brother and sister went demurely
from the room.




                               CHAPTER IX

                          WHILE GOBLINS DANCED


Although in little sympathy with frivolous forms of entertainment, Miss
Woodhull did condescend to a Hallowe'en Masquerade each year, and two
nights after Beverly's John Gilpin performance the girls were preparing
for the dance in the big gymnasium.

A collection had been taken up among the sixty girls constituting the
academic grades and a couple of musicians engaged for the occasion. They
came from an adjacent town where they formed part of a colored orchestra
of more than local fame, which was in great demand for miles around.
Consequently, the girls would have good music for their frolic and as
Mrs. Bonnell looked to the refreshments, everything was satisfactory
excepting Miss Woodhull's veto upon "the absurd practices of Hallowe'en:"
meaning the love tests of fate and fortune usually made that night. Those
were debarred, though many a one was indulged in in secret of which that
practical lady little kenned.

As a hostess and chaperone were deemed absolutely indispensable upon any
occasion, however informal, Mrs. Bonnell was always eagerly sought after
by the girls to act in the former capacity and Miss Dalton the gym
instructor in the latter. Miss Dalton seemed just like a girl herself,
and was, in fact, not many years her pupils' senior. She was in her
twenty-fourth year, but looked about nineteen, a jolly, chummy, lovable
woman, though no instructor maintained better discipline, or was more
willingly obeyed. She and Mrs. Bonnell worked in perfect harmony when
their duties brought them together.

Now it is only reasonable to surmise that Beverly and the boys had made
the very utmost of the fifteen minutes spent in Athol's room the previous
Wednesday, and some lightening-like communications had been interchanged.
On the way back to Leslie Manor, Beverly, Sally and Aileen had kept
somewhat in the rear, Petty and Hope (by the latter's finesse) contriving
to keep Jefferson between them. This had not been difficult because
Jefferson simply _had_ to have someone to talk to.

What the three in the rear discussed will be seen later. Those leading
were needlessly trying to convince Jefferson of the folly of making any
reference whatsoever to the unexpected route taken that afternoon.

Had they only known it, he was as anxious as they were to keep the affair
from headquarters, his chief misgivings resting in the possibility of the
report coming from Kilton Hall. As a matter of fact, it never occurred to
either Dr. or Mrs. Kilton to report it. It was a mere incident which had
ended rather pleasantly than otherwise, and, as a matter of fact, the
relations between the two schools were not over cordial. Dr. and Mrs.
Kilton had made very gracious overtures to Miss Woodhull when she first
opened Leslie Manor, but desiring to keep distantly at arm's length all
relations with a school that harbored boys, her response had been as
frigid as her New England coast line in February. This was rather
fortunate in the present case. Dr. and Mrs. Kilton not only requested the
instructors not to give needless publicity to the affair, or anxiety to
Miss Woodhull by permitting any report of the runaway to become
circulated, but also warned the servants and forbade the boys discussing
it abroad. And the boys were wise enough to put two and two together. So
a discreet silence was maintained, and Miss Woodhull spared a nerve
shock.

At seven-thirty o'clock on Hallowe'en, suite Number 10 buzzed like a
bee-hive. The three occupants were dressing, two or three girls were
assisting at the robing, and two or three more who were already costumed
were acting as spectators.

Beverly was going as Tweedle-dum, her costume consisting of funny little
ruffled trousers, a Lord Fauntleroy shirt, jacket and collar, her hair
braided and tucked inside her waist and her head covered by a huge
Glengarry bonnet. Tiny patent-leather pumps and little blue socks
completed the funny makeup. She was as bonny a little lad as one could
find, her name being plainly printed upon her big collar. Who would
complete the pair by being Tweedle-dee no one had been able to coax from
her. Her reply to all the girl's importunities being:

"Just wait and see if we don't match well."

Sally was to be Will-o'-the-Wisp, and a plump, spooky sprite she made
with dabs of phosphorus upon her fluttering black cambric costume, and
funny peaked cap, which glowed uncannily when the room was darkened. She
carried a little electric bulb lantern which unexpectedly flashed its
blinding rays into people's faces.

Aileen chose to be the evening star and very lovely she looked in her
costume made of several silver-spangled scarfs draped over one of her
dainty "nighties," which, of course, fell straight from her shoulders.
Her hair was caught up with every rhinestone pin or buckle she owned or
could borrow, and Mrs. Bonnell had supplied from the properties kept for
private theatricals the glittering star she wore above her forehead.

Aileen moved a goddess and she looked a queen, for she was a very
stately, lovely young girl.

At the stroke of eight all were ready and a general rush was made for the
gym, the girls laughing, talking, jostling each other and in most
hilarious mood, but, when they reached that gaily decorated room
Tweedle-dum was not among them.

The gym presented a pretty picture that night lighted by pumpkin Jack o'
Lanterns in which electric bulbs had been hidden, and by grotesque paper
lanterns representing bats, owls and all sorts of flying nocturnal
creatures. The side walls had been covered with gorgeous autumn foliage,
palms and potted rubber plants stood all about, and last, but by no means
least, there was a long table laden with goodies and more pumpkin
decorations. The room was a fitting scene for goblin's revels.

A barn dance had just begun, when down through the gym pranced
Tweedle-dum _and_ Tweedle-dee, and so identical were the figures that no
mortal being could have told one from the other had they chanced to
become separated. But this they seemed to have no intention of doing.
Together they went through the figures of the pretty fancy dance,
prancing, twirling, advancing, retreating; arms clasped or held above
each other's heads, feet twinkling in perfect time, heads nodding, eyes
dancing through the peepers of their little black half-masks, lips
smiling to reveal faultless teeth.

In two minutes everybody was asking:

"Who _is_ it? Who _are_ they? How _can_ they look so exactly alike? We
didn't know there were two girls in the school who matched so well, and
who could do everything so exactly alike."

But neither Tweedle-dum nor Tweedle-dee enlightened the questioners.
Indeed, neither spoke one word, signs having to answer to all queries.

Presently the musicians struck up a hornpipe, when away they went in the
jolliest dance eyes ever looked upon, and would have absorbed all
attention had not a new diversion been created just then.

During their prancing, Sally, in her Will-o'-the-Wisp costume, had been
darting in and out between the tall potted plants and bowers constructed
of Autumn leaves, her luminous tatters fluttering and her dancing light
blinding every dancer into whose face she flashed it.

Just as Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee were in the height of their
performance she darted from her bosky nook and flitted down the room,
closely followed by a tall Jack o' Lantern with his pumpkin light. No one
in the room was so tall. Who could it be? There was just one person in
the school who might look as tall if so disguised and that was Miss
Stetson, but even the liveliest imagination could hardly fancy Miss
Stetson in that guise. Moreover, Miss Stetson could never have pranced
with such supple grace as this dancing Jack was prancing after the
Will-o'-the-Wisp. No, it could not be Miss Stetson.

Towering above the nimble little Will, Jack cavorted, swung his lantern
and by signs indicated his desire to imitate Tweedle-dum's and
Tweedle-dee's performances, to which Will promptly acceded and the
quartette hornpipe was on.

Now it was Miss Woodhull's custom to grace all festive occasions by her
presence just prior to the stroke of nine-thirty when refreshments were
served. The revelers were to unmask before partaking of the feast. After
the feast they were at liberty to dance until ten-thirty but not a moment
later.

The fun was at its height, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee had danced with
every other goblin, the evening star included, though it must be
confessed that Tweedle-dee had been unanimously pronounced the better
leader by his partners, and Jack "almost as good as a boy; she was so
strong and danced so divinely," though none had as yet guessed the
identity of either. Then Miss Woodhull, escorted by Miss Baylis, entered
the gym. Had it been possible to suddenly reduce the temperature of the
room and thus congeal the dancers the effect produced could hardly have
been more chilling.

From the merriest, most hilarious frolicing, the gayest, cheeriest
bantering and laughter, to the utmost decorum was the transformation
effected in two minutes after Miss Woodhull's and Miss Baylis' entrance.
With the exception of Tweedle-dum, Tweedle-dee, Will-o'-the-Wisp and Jack
o' Lantern, the girls ceased dancing and stood in groups and even the
musicians played more softly.

There was not the vestige of a smile on Miss Woodhull's face as she
looked upon the four dancers. She tolerated such frivolity; she was
compelled to do so; her school would have been unpopular had she not done
so; other schools approved of them.

Raising her lorgnettes, she looked sharply at the four dancing figures.
Then turning to Mrs. Bonnell, who had crossed from the table to receive
her, she asked:

"Who is that strikingly tall figure in the Jack o' Lantern costume. I did
not know we had so tall a girl in the school."

"I am sure I do not know, Miss Woodhull. She came in after the dancing
began. She sustains the character well, doesn't she?"

"I wish to know _who_ she is. Send someone for her if you please,"
answered the principal, ignoring the question. She was a little doubtful
of that tall girl. In times gone by some of her pupils had been guilty of
indiscretions. If this were a repetition it must be nipped in the bud.

Mrs. Bonnell beckoned to one of the masqueraders, a jolly little Tam o'
Shanta, and bade him bring Jack.

He nodded and instantly darted off in pursuit of him. As well have tried
to capture the original of the character!

The mad chase lasted perhaps five minutes. Miss Woodhull was powerless.
How could she accuse Jack of disrespect to her or disregard of her
commands when he could not possibly have known them? He was only acting
his part to perfection any way. Besides Tam never had caught the goblins:
The shoe had been on the other foot. But at that second Jack tripped over
a ring set in the floor of the gym and went sprawling, his pumpkin
lantern flying out of his hand and breaking into a dozen fragments. Tam
was almost upon him, but before he could lay hold Jack was up again, had
made a spring, caught one of the flying rings which dangled high above
his head, swung like a monkey from that to the next, and so on down the
line until he was in range of the gallery, at which he hurled himself
bodily, landed upon the railing, balanced a half-second and was safe upon
the gallery floor, to the boundless amazement of the onlookers and
absolute banishment of their suspicions regarding the identity of Miss
Stetson. That spring settled his fate with Miss Woodhull: No girl in
Leslie Manor could have performed such a feat, and all the dancers were
staring speechless. It was the ominous silence before the storm.

"That masquerader is not a girl, Miss Bonnell! It is some boy! Who has
perpetrated this outrage? Miss Baylis, order all the outer doors closed
and guarded and a thorough search made. This matter shall be sifted to
the very bottom. No, you will all remain in this room and immediately
unmask under Mrs. Bonnell's eyes. I shall superintend the search," and
Miss Woodhull sailed majestically from the room.




                                CHAPTER X

                               THE SEARCH


"We're in for it," whispered Tweedle-dee to Tweedle-dum, as the two
comical figures drew unobtrusively into the rear of the group of girls
now removing their masks under Mrs. Bonnell's half-amused, half-serious
eyes, for she began to suspect that some sort of innocent prank had been
played which, like many another would have harmlessly played itself out
if let alone. She had always been opposed to the rigorous ban placed upon
boys and their visits to Leslie Manor by Miss Woodhull, believing and
justifiably too, that such arbitrary rules only led to a livelier desire
in the girls to meet said boys by hook or by crook.

"Hush!" whispered Tweedle-dum "and come behind this rubber plant. Now get
down on your hands and knees and follow me."

Tweedle-dee promptly obeyed orders and the next moment was in front of
the spiral stairway which led to the gallery.

"Make yourself as small as possible and crawl on your _stomach_ up this
staircase. At the other end of the gallery is a door leading into our
wing. I can't tell you another thing. Just use your wits," and
Tweedle-dum flitted back to be swallowed up in the crowd of girls who,
once more restored to an equable frame of mind were laughing merrily,
everyone asking everyone else if she knew who the Jack o' Lantern really
was. This very fact was sufficient reassurance for Mrs. Bonnell. She knew
girls better than Miss Woodhull knew them in spite of having _known
nothing_ else for more than forty years, but she resolved then and there
not to ask too many questions, which fact made two girls her slaves for
life. The discipline department was not her province nor was it one which
anything could have induced her to undertake. If Will-o'-the-Wisp was
aware of the name of her partner in the quartette hornpipe, or
Tweedle-dum knew Tweedle-dee's surname Miss Woodhull was the one to find
it out, not she. So smiling upon the group before her she asked:

"Are you now all visible to the naked eye and all accounted for? If so,
let us to the feast, for time is speeding." No urging was needed and lots
were promptly drawn for the privilege of cutting the fate cake. Mrs.
Bonnell had not considered it necessary to mention the fact that she had
ordered Aunt Sally, the cook, to bake one for the occasion, and while
good fellowship and hilarity reign below let us follow two less fortunate
mortals whom the witches seemed to have marked for their sport that
night.

Agreeable with Miss Woodhull's orders, Miss Baylis, who was only too
delighted to shine so advantageously in her superior's eyes, had scuttled
away, issuing as she went, the order to close _all_ outer doors and guard
them, allowing no one to pass through. Guileless souls both hers and Miss
Woodhull's, though another adjective might possibly be more apt. The
house had a few windows as well as doors.

Meeting Miss Stetson on the stairs she found in her a militant coadjutor,
and wireless could not have flashed the orders more quickly. Servants
went a-running until one might have suspected the presence of a criminal
in Leslie Manor rather than a mere boy.

Meanwhile, what of Jack o' Lantern and Tweedle-dee? Jack, it must be
admitted, had the greater advantage in having made a quicker get-away,
but Leslie Manor had many bewildering turns and corners, and when one has
been an inmate of a house less than--well, we won't specify the length of
time--one cannot be blamed for growing confused. Jack had made for the
very door Tweedle-dum had advised Tweedle-dee to make for and darted
through it muttering as he paused a second to listen: "Gee, I wish I
wasn't so confoundedly long legged!"

No sound coming to his ears from any of the rooms opening upon the
corridor into which he had darted, he sprinted down its length until it
terminated suddenly in a flight of stairs leading to the lower hall. He
had descended about half way when a babel of voices sent him scuttling
back again, and a moment later a voice commanded.

"Wesley, hurry up to the south wing. Whoever is in the house certainly
tried to make an escape from that quarter."

"Yas'm. I catches 'em ef dey 're up dar," blustered Wesley Watts Mather,
hurrying up the stairs and almost whistling to keep his courage up, for
your true darkie finds All Saint's Night an awesome one, and not to be
regarded lightly. Moreover, nearly all the electric lights were turned
off, only those necessary to light the halls being left on, and this fact
made the rooms seem the darker.

Now Jack o' Lantern's costume, like Will-o'-the-Wisp's, had been
liberally daubed with phosphorus and he still grasped the electric
flash-light which had illuminated his shattered pumpkin. There was no
time to stand upon ceremony for Wesley was almost at the top of the
stairs. A door stood open at hand and he darted through it into the room,
overturning a chair in the darkness.

"Hi, you! I done got you!" shouted his dusky pursuer and burst into the
room in hot chase. The next instant the exaltant shout changed to a howl
of terror, for in the middle of that room stood a towering motionless
figure from which radiated sheets of lightning, one blinding flash
darting straight into the terrified darkie's eyes. "A flash ob lightenin'
what cl'ar par'lyzed me an' helt ma feet fast to de floo'! Den, befo' I
could get 'em loosen' dat hant jist lif' his hoof--yas ma'am, dat was a
hoof, not no man's foot--an' I 'clar cross ma heart he done hist me froo
dat do' an' cl'ar down dem stairs. He want no _man_. He de debbil hissef.
No siree, yo' ain' gettin' me back up _dem_ stairs twell some white folks
gwine _fust_. Not _me_. I knows when ter lie low, I does." (Goal kicking
develops a fellow's muscles.)

Nor could any amount of urging or scolding prevail, and Miss Stetson, the
strong-minded, was obliged to go up to investigate. But though every room
was searched there was no sign of mortal being. All the window sashes in
Leslie Manor had been rehung in the most approved modern methods and
could be raised and lowered without a sound. A porch roof and a slender
column are quite as available as flying rings to a born acrobat.

As she was returning from her fruitless search she encountered Miss
Woodhull.

"Well?" queried that lady.

"It is _not_ well. If there really was any one in that wing, which I am
compelled to doubt, he has made a most amazing escape."

"Doubt?" repeated Miss Woodhull with no little asperity. "You will hardly
doubt the evidence of my own eyesight, will you Miss Stetson? I _saw_
that person cross the gallery and enter the south wing. Be good enough to
go down to the gymnasium and call the roll. I desire to know if all the
girls are accounted for."

To judge by Miss Stetson's expression she was none too well pleased by
the principal's tone. Nevertheless, she repaired to the gym and ignoring
Mrs. Bonnell's assurance that no girls were missing proceeded to call the
roll. Of course all responded.

Meanwhile, Miss Woodhull had summoned Jefferson, who if no less
superstitious, was backed up by her august presence, and together they
mounted the stairs and made a room-to-room inspection, peering into every
closet or any possible hiding place. Not a sign of human being was found
until they came to the study of Suite 10, then a faint sound was audible
in bedroom A beyond.

Quicker than it would seem possible for a person of her proportions to
move, Miss Woodhull entered the study, reached the electric switch and
turned on the lights, calling at the same moment:

"Who is in that room?"

There was no reply, and the irate lady, speedily covering the distance
between the electric switch and the bedroom door, turned on the light in
that room also.

There stood Tweedle-dee.

He had removed his mask and was about to don a long gray automobile coat.

"What are you doing here, Beverly, when I gave explicit orders that no
one should leave the gymnasium?" demanded Miss Woodhull, frowning
portentously upon the delinquent.

"My costume is so thin I was cold. I came up after my coat, Miss
Woodhull," was the smiling answer, spoken quite softly enough to turn
away wrath.

"You came in direct disobedience to my orders? You may now remain here
for the rest of the evening."

"Oh please, Miss Woodhull, let me go back. They are to have a reel,"
begged her victim.

"No, I have spoken. You will remain in your room."

Without more ado the defrauded one hurled herself into the middle of the
bed, buried her head in the immaculate pillows and burst into a paroxysm
of sobs.

"You have brought this upon yourself. Had you obeyed me there would have
been no occasion for this punishment."

"I was freezing! I just won't stay stived up here while all the girls are
having such fun in the gym. It isn't fair. I haven't done a single thing
but get this coat," was sobbed from the bed, as a vigorous kick sent the
eiderdown cover flying almost in Miss Woodhull's face. A little more
energy would have compassed it.

Miss Woodhull deigned no reply, but turning swept from the room locking
the door behind her. She could deal summarily with rebellious pupils.
Then the search was resumed under her eagle eye, but without results. Not
a creature was to be found, and dismissing her followers she returned to
the gym to get Miss Stetson's report.

"Are _all_ the older pupils present?" she asked.

"They are," replied Miss Stetson somewhat icily.

"Excepting Beverly Ashby, of course."

"Beverly Ashby is here. She is standing in the group near the table,"
corrected Miss Stetson with some satisfaction.

"Impossible. I have just this moment locked her in her room for
disobedience and insolence. You are mistaken."

"Hardly, as you may convince yourself by merely looking."

Miss Woodhull did look and for a moment felt as though caught in the
spell of that mystic night. Beverly Ashby stood laughing and talking with
Sally Conant, Aileen and Mrs. Bonnell, as merry a little Tweedle-dum as
one could picture. Miss Woodhull caught her eye and motioned her to
approach.

"Ye gods and little fishes," whispered Beverly to Sally as she left the
group and went toward Miss Woodhull. That lady's expression was most
forbidding.

"Why are you here?" she demanded icily.

Beverly looked at her innocently as she answered: "I don't think I quite
understand you, Miss Woodhull."

"Not understand me? Is your intellect impaired? Did I not order you to
remain in your room for the remainder of this evening?"

"No, Miss Woodhull."

Miss Woodhull turned crimson. Such barefaced audacity was unheard of.

"How did you manage to leave the room, may I inquire?"

"I have not left the room since I entered it at eight o'clock, Miss
Woodhull."

"Mrs. Bonnell," called the now thoroughly exasperated principal, "did you
see Beverly Ashby return to this gymnasium less than ten minutes ago?"

"Beverly has not been _out_ of it, Miss Woodhull. She has been enjoying
her refreshments with the other pupils."

"Ridiculous! Miss Stetson, perhaps _you_ have a clearer idea of facts
since I requested you to return to the gymnasium and call the roll. Was
Beverly present when you did so?"

"She was standing not ten feet from me, Miss Woodhull. Of this I am
positive, because her cap fell from her head as she replied and delayed
the response of the girl next on the roll, who stopped to pick it up."

"I believe you are all irresponsible! These silly Hallowe'en customs have
turned your heads. I have never approved such inane proceedings. Why you
may as well try to convince me that I, myself, did not enter Suite 10,
and that I did not speak to Beverly Ashby in it not ten minutes ago, and
leave her there in the middle of her bed weeping and conducting herself
like a spoiled child because she could not participate in the closing
Virginia Reel. Utter nonsense! Utter nonsense! But we will have no more
hoodwinking, rest assured. There has been quite enough already. You may
all go to your rooms reels or no reels. I have experienced enough folly
for one night--if not much worse."

For a second there was profound silence, then a general cry of protest
arose. To be defrauded of their Virginia Reel for no justifiable reason,
and sent to bed before ten o'clock like a lot of naughty children when
they really had not done a single thing, was too much.

Petty wept openly. Petty's griefs, sorrow or joys could invariably find
prompt relief in tears or giggles. She existed in a perpetual state of
emotion of some sort.

Aileen murmured:

"Look at Miss Stetson's face. She doesn't know whether to frown or smile.
She will lose her reason presently."

"Oh, why need the Empress have come in at all. We were having such fun
and--" Sally paused significantly.

Beverly nodded a quick comprehension of what the conclusion of Sally's
sentence would have been, and said, under cover of the babel of voices,
for even the Empress, stalking along ahead of her rebellious ones could
not entirely subdue their protests:

"And I am wondering what we shall find up in Number 10, and especially in
bedroom A." And in spite of those possibilities she laughed softly.

"And not a single mouthful of that delicious spread after those ten
miles. I call it a perfect outrage," muttered Sally like a distant
thunder-storm.

Beverly flashed one quizzical, tantalizing glance at her. "Don't let
_that_ worry you," she said.

"What?" whispered Sally eagerly.

"Hush. Listen to the Empress. Oh, isn't this the richest you ever heard?"




                               CHAPTER XI

                 "DE HANTS DONE GOT DIS HYER HOUSE SURE"


They had now reached the south corridor, Miss Woodhull in the full force
of her convictions, again heading straight for Suite 10, and bedroom A,
in order to substantiate her statement of having within the past twenty
minutes locked Beverly in.

She was affirming in no doubtful voice to Miss Stetson: "There is no
reason that I should try to justify myself or endeavor to prove that my
faculties are unimpaired, unless I choose to do so, but I prefer to
convince both you and Mrs. Bonnell that I generally know what I am
talking about. You will find that door securely locked!"

They needed no urging, but the door opened at a touch, locks nevertheless
and notwithstanding. The light was switched on instanter. The room was
absolutely undisturbed, likewise the bed. The puff cover, so lately
hurtling through space and straight for Miss Woodhull's august head, lay
neatly folded in a triangle across the foot of the bed. The pillow case
did not show a line or crease. The spread was absolutely unrumpled. In
short, not one single thing was out of place or tumbled. The room might
not have been occupied for twenty-four hours so far as any sign of
disturbance was evident.

Miss Stetson looked just a trifle skeptical. Mrs. Bonnell's lips twitched
a bit at the corners though her face was most respectfully sober.

With one withering glance at Beverly, the teachers, and all concerned,
Miss Woodhull remarked scathingly: "If you were capable of such
expedition in worthier causes you would lead the school," and glancing
neither to the right nor left, swept from the room.

"You are to retire at once and no noise, young ladies," ordered Miss
Stetson, divided between satisfaction at having proved her statement
regarding Beverly's presence in the gym and her resentment at being
doubted at the outset.

Mrs. Bonnell had already retreated to her special sanctum, there to have
a quiet laugh over the whole absurd situation. She had guessed, of
course, who Tweedle-dee and Jack o' Lantern were and in spite of rules to
the contrary, thought it a rather good joke than otherwise. Presently she
would send the servants into the gym to clear away the remains of the
feast, but she would have her laugh first.

Miss Baylis, whose room was in the main building with the seniors had
repaired thither to enforce compliance with Miss Woodhull's commands. No
easy task, for some of the girls were long past baby days and resented
baby treatment. The other teachers also had their hands full.
Consequently the south wing was left entirely to Miss Stetson's
supervision, and the south wing was a pretty sizable building and
naturally under existing circumstances, it did not simmer down as
promptly as under ordinary conditions. Miss Stetson was compelled to go
from room to room.

"Girls, be quick! Get undressed as fast as you can and put out your
light," urged Beverly.

"What's up?" demanded Sally, who was inclined to dawdle from very
perversity.

"Springing another one on us, Bev?" asked Aileen, laughing softly but
hastily complying with orders.

Beverly vouchsafed no answer beyond a significant little jerk of her
head.

In five minutes the lights were out in A, B, and C and Study 10 was in
darkness also. Miss Stetson, ever suspicious, tiptoed back to peep in but
found nothing amiss. Then a new outbreak far down the corridor summoned
her to that end and Number 10 was for the time being left in peace. This
was the cue. Beverly let about five minutes pass, then slipped out of bed
and into her bathrobe and bedroom slippers in a jiffy. Sally and Aileen
needed no hint to follow suit.

"Come quick," whispered Beverly.

Number 10 was fortunately, (or unfortunately) nearer the door leading to
the gym gallery than some other suites. The corridor was now conveniently
dark, the lights having been extinguished by Miss Stetson. Only the
patches of moonlight shining through the windows showed the prowlers
which way to turn. In two seconds the gallery door was reached and the
three were upon the gym side of it.

Now Miss Woodhull's pet economy was lights, and woe betide the luckless
inmate of Leslie Manor who needlessly used electricity. The girls often
said that if the house ever caught fire Miss Woodhull would pause in
rushing from it to switch off any electric bulb left burning. From sheer
force of habit she had switched off the lights in the gym as she hurried
from it, a key happening to be at the side of the door through which she
led her brood. That the tail-end of the crowd might have stumbled over
something was a trifling consideration.

Beverly's quick wits which had grasped many details of Miss Woodhull's
idiosyncrasies, had taken in this one. It served her turn now. The gym
was lighted only by moonlight, and silent as silence itself. The girls
tittered.

"Isn't the joke on you, Bev?" asked Aileen.

"Oh look! Quick!" whispered Sally.

Beverly merely nodded.

At the further end of the room something glowed uncannily. Then two
figures stole into a patch of moonlight, one tall and tattered; the other
enveloped in a long garment which resembled a girl's coat, and from out
the darkness came a sepulchral whisper:

"Where the dickens did you say that key was?"

"Under the last side-horse," Beverly whispered back. "Can't you find it?"

"Ah, I looked under the first one," was the disgusted answer.

"Did you get the box?"

"Yes, I've got it all O. K.," replied the taller figure, "and now we're
going to beat it. Good-night. Did you get ragged again?"

"Nothing stirring, but we wanted to be sure you got the eats. They're
great. Good-night," whispered Beverly.

"So long," and spook number one having evidently found the key in
question made for a door which gave upon the rear terrace. Just as he was
about to insert the key the door was opened from the outside and Wesley's
wooley head was outlined in the moonlight. The spooks darted behind the
refreshment table and the three watchers dropped into inconspicuous heaps
upon the gallery floor.

Wesley had entered with his pass key in compliance with Mrs. Bonnell's
orders. The maids who were to help him had lingered to get their trays.
Wesley would have given a good deal could the clearing up have been
deferred until the light of day, but he was obliged to obey Mrs. Bonnell.

"Whar dose fool gals at wid dey trays?" he muttered, "Seem lak gals ain'
never whar yo' want 'em _when_ yo' want 'em, an' pintedly dar when yo'
don'. Ma Lawd, whar' dat 'lectric switch at," he ended as he clawed about
the dark wall at the side of the door for the duplicate of the switch
Miss Woodhull had so carefully turned off.

As he found it a groan just behind him caused him to swing sharply about.

Unless one has heard a darkie's howl of terror at what he believes to be
an apparition it is utterly impossible to convey any idea of its
weirdness.

Wesley tried to reach the door. So did the tall spook. The result was a
collision which sent Wesley heels over head, and before he could scramble
to his feet again two spooks instead of one had vanished.

With a second howl the darkie shot across the gym and out of the door
which led into the main building, where his cries speedily brought an
audience to which he protested that:

"De hants done got dis house, suah!" and so successfully drew attention
to the main floor that the three girls had no difficulty in slipping back
to Number 10 and raising a window to listen to the thud of hoofbeats down
the driveway.

So ended All Saint's Eve, though Wesley Watts Mather long retained his
horror of that gymnasium after nightfall.

Then for a time all moved serenely at Leslie Manor. Thanksgiving recess
was drawing nigh and the girls were planning for their holiday, which
would begin on the afternoon of the day before and last until the
following Monday morning.

Beverly was, of course, going to Woodbine, the boys to be her escort from
Front Royal, to which junction she would be duly escorted by Miss
Stetson, in company with Sally and Aileen, who were also going home.

Petty Gaylord was to join her doting mamma in Washington and proceed from
that city to Annapolis to attend the Thanksgiving hop at the Naval
Academy with the idol of her affections and also go up to the Army-Navy
game in Philadelphia upon the Saturday following, and Petty was a very
geyser of gurgling giggles at the prospect.

Beverly's five days at home with the boys seemed only to emphasize the
separation of the past two months and make the ensuing ones harder to
contemplate.

The Sunday evening before she must go back to school she was nestling
upon the arm of the Admiral's big chair, her arm about his neck, her dark
head resting lovingly against his white one as she "confessed her sins."

From baby days this had been a Sunday night custom, and more passed
between these two in those twilight hours than anyone else ever kenned.

The Admiral's study was one of those rooms which seem full to the very
ceiling of wonderful memories, and was also one of the homiest rooms at
Woodbine.

It was the hour before tea time. Across the big hall could be heard Earl
Queen's mellow tenor as he softly intoned: "Swing low, sweet chariot,"
while laying the table for the evening meal, the little clink of silver
and glass betraying his occupation.

Mrs. Ashby had gone upstairs with Athol to unearth some treasures he
wished to take back to school with him. The big house was very silent, a
peaceful, restful spirit pervading it.

Upon the hearth in the study the logs blazed brightly, filling the big
room with a rich, red glow and the sweet odor of burning spruce.

For some time neither Beverly nor her uncle had spoken. He was thinking
intently of the confessions just made as he gazed at the darting flames
and absently stroked the hand she had slipped into his, her other one
gently patting his shoulder. Now and again she kissed the thick, silvery
curls which crowned the dear old head.

Presently he said abruptly:

"And now that you've gotten your load of sins off your shoulders and
bundled onto mine do you feel better?"

"No, I can't say that I do, but I had to unload all the same. There is no
one at the school to unload upon, you see. Besides, it could never be
like you, any way. You always let things sort of percolate, before you
let off steam, but it's mostly all steam, or _hot air_, at Leslie Manor."

"Reckon you can supply your share of the latter, can't you?" was the half
serious, half-bantering retort.

"Somehow, I haven't felt exactly hot-airy since I've been there. It makes
me feel more steamy; as though I'd blow up sometimes. It seems so sort
of--of--oh, I don't know just how to tell you. I'd _like_ to like Miss
Woodhull but she'd freeze a polar bear, and I believe she just hates
girls even though she keeps a girl's school. And Miss Stetson must have
been fed on vinegar when she was a baby, and Miss Baylis is the _limit_,
and Miss Forsdyke lives in Rome."

"Is anybody just right?" asked the Admiral, quizzically.

"Some of them would be all right if they had half a chance or dared. Mrs.
Bonnel is a dear. Miss Dalton's lovely, but has no chance to prove it.
Miss Powell is the most loveable girl you ever knew and the little
kindergarteners adore her. Miss Forsdyke would be lovely if she wasn't
scared to death of Miss Woodhull and Miss Atwell would be sort of nice if
she wasn't so silly. Oh, Uncle Athol if you only _could_ see her pose and
make us do stunts! And she's just like a jelly fish; all floppy and
tumble-a-party. I feel just exactly as though I hadn't a bone in my body
after two hours flopping 'round under her instructions."

"What in thunder do they waste time on such nonsense for?" blurted out
the Admiral.

"To make us supple and graceful. Am I stiff, Uncle Athol? I've always
felt ten times more supple after a rattling good gallop with Ath and
Archie, or half a dozen games of tennis, than after I've turned and
twisted myself into bowline-knots with Miss Atwell. Oh, _how_ I miss the
old good times, Uncle Athol! Why can't Ath come to see me or I go to see
him sometimes? If they'd only let me I'd never think of running away as I
did that day."

"Good Lord how can I tell the workings of an old maid's mind?" exploded
Admiral Seldon. "It's too big a question for me to answer. I've always
had an idea that it was a good thing for boys and girls to grow up
together, and so has your mother, I reckon, or she'd never have allowed
you to romp 'round with Athol and Archie as long as you have. And I can't
for the life of me see that you're any the worse for it. But maybe that's
just exactly the difference between an old maid's and an old bach's
viewpoint. Can't you wheedle her as you wheedle _me_. Seems to me if you
went at it like this you might make her believe that the port and
starboard lights were black and white instead of red and green. Try it."

"_Cuddle_ Miss Woodhull! Uncle Athol would _you_ like to cuddle Miss
Woodhull?" demanded Beverly tragically.

"God bless my soul, No! I'd as soon cuddle that statue of Diana yonder on
the lawn."

"So would _I_," was the prompt reply. "I reckon I'd rather. She isn't
half so cold. Wheedle? Hum. Wouldn't it be funny if I could? I'll think
about it. But if she were as cuddable as you it would be--de-li-cious,"
she ended with a bear hug.

"Here's Queen to announce tea. Come along you artful huzzy. I never have
an atom of justice or logic in me when I talk to you."

Nevertheless, he kissed her very tenderly as he untwined her circling
arms. The past two months had been very lonely ones for him without her.

"Will you try to make Miss Woodhull let us see each other?" she begged.

"I'll think about it. I'll think about it. And do you do some thinking
too lest you disgrace Woodbine.

"I'm _going_ to think. _Hard_," she added, as together they entered the
cheerful dining room.




                               CHAPTER XII

                           AFTER THE HOLIDAYS


The session between the Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation always seemed
a brief one, filled as it is with plans for the latter holiday.

When the Thanksgiving holiday was over Beverly and the boys went back to
their respective schools under Admiral Seldon's escort. At least he went
as far as Front Royal with Athol and Archie, leaving them at that point
to go on by themselves while he accompanied Beverly to Leslie Manor. He
was minded to have a few words with Miss Woodhull and know something more
of the lady's character than he already knew. The outcome of that
interview left a good deal to be desired upon the Admiral's part. He
returned to Woodbine "with every gun silenced," and the lady triumphant
in her convictions that _her_ methods of conducting a school for girls
were quite beyond criticism. It would be utterly impossible for Beverly
to even think of visiting her brother at Kilton Hall, she said, nor could
she consent to Athol visiting Leslie Manor. She did not wish to establish
a precedent. As to Archie _ever_ coming there, _that_ idea was
preposterous. Why every boy for miles around would feel at liberty to
call upon her pupils and they would be simply besieged. She had conducted
her school successfully for many years under its present methods and
until she saw more cogent reasons for changing she should continue to do
so.

Had not the Admiral made arrangements for the year it is safe to surmise
that Beverly would have returned to Woodbine with him, and his frame of
mind, and the remarks to which he gave utterance, as he drove back to the
junction, elicited more than one broad grin or chuckle from Andrew J.
Jefferson as he drove. But Beverly did not know anything about it.

So the weeks sped by until the Christmas recess drew near and the girls
were once more planning to scatter, far and wide, for their two-weeks
holiday.

Now be it known that Petty had returned from her Thanksgiving trip to
Annapolis in a more sentimental frame of mind than ever, and filled as
full of romance as an egg is of meat.

Each day brought a letter always addressed in a feminine handwriting, to
be sure, or there would have been little chance of said letter ever
reaching Petty. They were, she confided to every girl in the school under
strictest promises of secrecy, re-addressed for "Reggy" by "darling
mamma," for mamma, knowing how desperate was their devotion to each
other, just simply could not help acting as a go-between. And she knew
very well too that she, Petty, would not have remained at school a single
day unless she did this. Why, mamma, herself, had eloped with papa before
she was sixteen. One whole year younger than she, herself, was at that
moment. "Wasn't that romantic?"

"Where is papa now?" asked Beverly. She had never heard him mentioned.

"Oh, why--well--he has business interests which keep him in South America
nearly all the time, and--er,"

"Oh, you needn't go into details. It doesn't make any difference to me,"
said Beverly, and walked away with Sally.

"Isn't she odious! And so perfectly callous to sentiment," cried Petty.

"She's a dear, and it's a pity you hadn't a small portion of her common
sense," championed Aileen emphatically.

"I have sense enough to be engaged before I'm _seventeen_, and to know
what it means to be _embraced_, which is more than any other girl in this
school can boast," brindled Petty.

"Well, I should hope it is!" was Aileen's disgusted retort. "And if you
don't watch out you'll boast just once too often and Miss Woodhull will
get wise to your boasting. Then there will be something stirring unless
I'm mighty mistaken."

"Pouf! Who cares for Miss Woodhull? I don't believe she ever had a
proposal in all her life."

"Well, you'd better be careful," was Aileen's final warning as she left
the half-dozen girls of which Petty formed the bright particular star.

"Those three feel themselves so superior yet they are such children," was
Petty's withering remark.

Aileen was two months her junior. Sally less than a year and Beverly
exactly fifteen months. But being engaged very naturally developes and
broadens one's views of life. Dear "Reggie" was just twenty, and had his
lady love but known that interesting fact, had already been "engaged" to
three other susceptible damsels during his brief sojourn upon the earth.
Moreover, he was openly boasting of it to his fellow midshipmen and
regarding it as a good joke. Oh, Reggie was a full-fledged, brass-buttoned
heart-breaker. Happily he was not a representative among his companions.
Most of them are gentlemen. They can do a good bit of "fussing" as they
term it, but this wholesale engagement business is the exception, rather
than the rule.

Nevertheless, Petty had sang of the charms of Annapolis until all her set
were wild to go there, and her enthusiasm had spread like chickenpox. If
the affairs at Annapolis were all Petty pictured them and the midshipmen
as fascinating, the place must, indeed, be a sort of Paradise.

Of course, all the girls knew that Beverly was a real, true Admiral's
grandniece. That he had left Annapolis upon his graduation to take sides
with his native state. So why had Beverly never been to that alluring
place?

Beverly had never given Annapolis a thought. Now, however, she meant to
know a few facts regarding it, and while home on her vacation learned a
number. She also learned that sometime in the spring, during the Easter
holiday, possibly, her uncle might take her and the boys to Washington
and while stopping in the capital, visit the old town which lay adjacent
to the Naval Academy Reservation.

Upon her return after the Christmas recess Beverly made some casual
allusion to this fact, and at once started a new and livelier interest.
Why couldn't a party of girls be chaperoned there by one of the teachers,
choosing the same time?

In five minutes it was all planned. But they had Miss Woodhull to reckon
with, and Easter was still many weeks ahead on the calendar.

When not long after came the mid-year examinations. The girls had been
working hard all the week and were tired. Examinations had ended the day
before and they had about reached the limit for that week. February was
the month most dreaded of all the eight. The last period of each day was
twelve to one, the juniors had history and English literature under Miss
Baylis. Now Miss Baylis at her very best was not a restful individual
with whom to come in touch, and after a long morning of hard work and the
growing hunger of healthy appetites for food for the body rather than for
the mind, the girls did not find "a barbed tongue" and a caustic
disposition soothing.

English literature as taught by Miss Baylis was not inspiring to say the
least, and the half hour devoted to it had not aroused enthusiasm. Then
came the second half hour for English history; Miss Woodhull believing it
well to take up the kindred subject while the girl's minds were well
imbued with the first one. Just as Miss Baylis was about to begin she was
summoned from the recitation room by Miss Forsdyke.

"Take your books and refresh your memories for a moment or two: I shall
be back immediately, and I _hope_ you will employ this special privilege
in studying diligently. _You_ in particular, Electra, for you certainly
did not make a brilliant showing in your literature recitation. Remember
I shall expect you to redeem yourself in history, for the periods are
identical," was her admonition as she went toward the door. As she was
about to pass through it, she paused to repeat her words. Sally yawned
behind her book. As the door closed Petty's inevitable "tee-hee-hee" was
audible. The next second the door was hastily opened.

"I _hope_," and Miss Baylis' suspicious eyes were upon her charges. Then
she vanished. Naturally someone else tittered.

Barely five minutes passed and when she returned her first words were:

"I hope--" then she paused for a smile appeared upon every face bringing
the abstracted lady back to earth. It was Beverly who asked innocently:
"Excuse me, Miss Baylis, but did you tell us to begin our literature
papers at the ninety-fifth line of Pope's Essay on Man: 'Hope springs
eternal'?"

"We ended our literature recitation ten minutes ago, Beverly. If you were
so inattentive as to miss what I said that is your misfortune," was the
austere retort. Nevertheless, the shot had told.

Ten more minutes of the period slipped by, nay, crawled by, in which Miss
Baylis darting from one victim to another bent upon reaching their
vulnerable points. Then it came, Electra Sanderson's turn to recite.

Now Electra Sanderson was distinctly of the nouveau riche. She came from
an eastern city where money is the god of things. Why her father, a
kindly soul who had risen from hod carrier to contractor, happened to
choose Leslie Manor for his youngest daughter must remain one of the
unanswered questions. Perhaps "mommer" made the selection on account of
the name which had appealed to her. Manors or manners were all one to
her. At any rate, Electra (christened Ellen) was a pupil at Miss
Woodhull's very select school. A big, good-natured, warm-hearted,
generous, dull _slouchy_ girl of seventeen, who never could and never
would "change her spots," but was inevitably destined to marry someone of
her own class, rear a flourishing family and settle down into a
commonplace, good-natured matron, Leslie Manor nevertheless, and
notwithstanding. Miss Woodhull and her staff might polish until
exhausted. The only result would be the removal of the plating and the
exposure of the alloy beneath.

Electra didn't care a whoop for the old fogies who had lived and ruled in
England generations before she was born. Indeed, she would not have wept
had England and all the histories ever written about her disappeared
beneath the sea which surrounded that country. What she wanted now was to
get out of that classroom and into the dining room visible from the
window near which she was sitting, and through which she gazed longingly,
for there could be found something tangible. Her thoughts had been in the
dining room for the past five minutes, consequently she was not aware
that Sally had surreptitiously reached toward her from the seat behind,
laid hold of about eighteen inches of the lacing of her Peter Thomson
(dangling as usual) and while Petty Gaylord, sitting next Sally, was
secretly reading a letter concealed behind her book, had made fast
Electra's Peter Thomson lacing to Petty's boot lacing, _likewise_ adrift,
and then soberly awaited developments.

Sally could manage to do more things unobserved than any other girl in
the school, though she had found a fair rival in Beverly.

Thus lay the train "of things as they ought (not) to be" when Miss Baylis
fired her first shot at poor Electra.

"Electra suppose you return to _this_ world of facts,--you seem to be in
dreamland at present--and tell me who brought a rather unpleasant
notoriety upon himself at this period."

Electra returned to England and English affairs at a bound. But to which
period was Miss Baylis referring? Electra had not the ghost of an idea
but would make a stab at it any way.

"Why-er-oh, it was-er-the man who made extensive use of bricks in the
House of Commons," she ventured at random.

"What?" demanded Miss Baylis, utterly bewildered.

"Yes, ma'am. I mean yes, Miss Baylis. I can't remember his name but he
did. I learned that by heart last night at study period," staunchly
asserted Electra, sure for once in her life of her point, for hadn't she
_read_ those very words?

"Of 'bricks'?" repeated Miss Baylis.

"Yes m--, Miss Baylis."

Miss Baylis' eyes snapped as much as any pair of colorless blue eyes set
too close together can snap. One of the many hopeless tasks which she had
undertaken with Electra had been to banish from her vocabulary that
impossible "ma'am", yet like Banquo's ghost it refused to be laid.

"Open your book at that page and read the sentence," commanded the
history teacher.

Electra obediently did as bidden and read glibly.

"'He made extensive use of----'" and just there came to an embarrassed
halt as a titter went around the schoolroom.

"Silence!" Miss Baylis' tone of voice did not encourage levity. "Well?"
she interrogated crisply.

"It's _bribes_, Miss Baylis," said poor Electra, covered with confusion
and blushes.

"Exactly. The greatest simpleton would understand that. Are you more
familiar with bricks than bribes?" It was a cruel thrust under the
circumstances, and Miss Baylis had the grace to blush at the look of
scorn which darted from Beverly's eyes straight into her own and the curl
which Aileen's lips held. But even a worm may turn, and for once Miss
Baylis was taken off her feet by having Electra reply: "I guess it's more
honest to be."

"Good!" came from someone, but Miss Baylis thought it wiser to ignore it.

"You may stand and read that sentence five times. Perhaps it may
percolate after so doing."

Electra, still smarting under the sting of Miss Baylis' sarcasm rose
hastily, and with her as hastily rose Petty's foot to a horizontal
position, encountering in its ascent the rung of Electra's chair and
toppling it over with a crash.




                              CHAPTER XIII

                          CULINARY EXPERIMENTS


Most of the girls gave vent to startled exclamations, but Miss Baylis was
speechless with rage. Electra turned and twisted in her frantic endeavors
to discover the origin of the upheaval, and Petty made a mad scramble for
her history book which the sudden jerk had sent flying out of her hands,
the sentimental missive fluttering from its hiding place to drop at
Beverly's feet. Stooping hastily, Beverly caught it up unnoticed in the
greater confusion, though she could not help seeing "Darling little
sweetheart," in a large immature hand at the heading. With a scarcely
repressed laugh she hid it in her book, and turned to face the storm
center, Miss Baylis.

"Who is responsible for this folly?" demanded the irate one.

There was no reply.

"I wish an answer," reiterated Miss Baylis, turning to Beverly who sat
near Petty. "Is this your idea of a joke?"

"Not exactly, Miss Baylis."

"Are you guilty of this act?"

"No, Miss Baylis."

"Do you know who is?"

"I could not tell if I did, Miss Baylis."

"I shall force you to tell," was the unguarded retort.

"It is rather hard to force an Ashby or a Seldon to do something they
consider dishonorable, Miss Baylis," was the quiet reply.

"You are insolent."

"I did not intend to be."

Of this Miss Baylis was quite well aware. She had begun to understand
something of Beverly's character and to learn something of the importance
of this Woodbine family and their standing in the community. Consequently
she turned her attention to Sally and asked:

"Is your sense of honor equally nice? Which of your classmates played
this senseless trick?"

Sally remained silent.

"Did you hear my question?"

"I did, Miss Baylis."

"Then why do you not answer me. If you are aware which girl did this
silly thing why do you keep silent when you know I am sure to discover
sooner or later?"

"Perhaps for the same reason Beverly has," answered Sally. "But why don't
you ask me if _I_ did it Miss Baylis? I've often done far worse, haven't
I?"

"You are rarely vulgar in your pranks," was Miss Baylis' amazing retort,
which caused the class to gasp. What was back of this extraordinary
hedging?

"Well I _did_ do it, Miss Baylis, and I am perfectly willing to stand the
punishment. Shall I go to Miss Woodhull's office after class?"

"No, I wish to talk with you myself."

Sally looked scornful. Well she knew that Miss Baylis had passed her
vacation at Kittery Point where Uncle Tom Conant, a bachelor had also
passed his. Uncle Tom was rich, good looking and dapper. A lady's man who
charmed every member of the fair sex with whom he was thrown, but with no
more idea of matrimony than of murder in his heart. He was devoted to his
brother's children, as well as the fair sex in general and could no more
help flattering every one of them than he could help petting the children
who were always crowding about him. Some of his stories of Miss Baylis'
"shining up" to him had nearly convulsed his nieces. It was the memory of
these which brought the smile to Sally's lips at the lady's last words.
At that moment the last bell sounded and Miss Baylis was obliged to
dismiss her class as quickly as possible. Miss Woodhull was very
intolerant of tardiness at meals. Upon the instant the release bell
sounded the classes must be dismissed and each girl must hurry to her
room to make herself presentable at luncheon.

"Sally, you will come to me _immediately_ after luncheon. I am deeply
pained that you could be guilty of such deportment. I wish to talk
seriously with you," was Miss Baylis' concluding admonition to the
incorrigible one.

"Yes, Miss Baylis," replied Sally, as she scrambled up her books and
joined the girls all hurrying to their rooms.

Petty lingered to glance beneath chairs and desks for the lost letter. To
her dismay it had vanished completely. She never suspected that Beverly
running upstairs with the others, held it safe in her history. She would
return it to Petty later. Just at present she was too much amused by Miss
Baylis' attitude toward Sally, who had told her of some of the funny
scenes at Kittery Point, to think much about Petty's love affairs, and
before luncheon was over a diversion was created, which made her entirely
forget it.

For some time, "Aunt Sally Jefferson," the cook at Leslie Manor had been
ailing, and had recently gone away to "res' up." Mrs. Bonnell knew well
enough that it was useless to protest. These "res'in' ups" were
periodical. Usually she substituted a colored woman who lived at Luray,
but Rebecca had taken a permanent situation and was not available.

Jefferson came to her rescue. He had a "lady frien'" who could cook
nearly as well as his mother. Mrs. Bonnell was skeptical, but it was a
case of "needs must when the de'il drives," and Juno Daphne came as
substitute cook. Then Mrs. Bonnell's trials began. One morning girl after
girl left her fried smelts untasted though ordinarily they were a rare
delicacy in that part of the world.

Mrs. Bonnell investigated. What _was_ the trouble? Had Juno prepared them
properly?

"Yas'm I did. I just done fry 'em."

"Did you clean and wash them carefully?" persisted Mrs. Bonnell.

"No'm. Dey's such triflin' fish I ain' see no sense 'n botherin' ter
clean and wash 'em."

The next morning such smelts as had been left uncooked for the previous
breakfast, came to the table a truly tempting sight, but with the first
mouthful a distinct murmur arose and Mrs. Bonnell exclaimed: "Mercy upon
me! _What_ has she done this time?"

Inquiries followed.

"Yas _ma'am_. I done wash 'em _good_ dis time. I wash 'em wid dat sof'
soap what Aunt Sally done made befo' she took sick!"

And then for more than a week all went serenely. Now dessert was being
brought on. Mrs. Bonnell always served it. Wesley came in from the pantry
bearing a large platter upon which rested a mold of pudding of the most
amazing color mortal eye ever rested upon. It was a vivid beautiful
sky-blue and Wesley disclosed every ivory in his ample mouth as he set
the dish upon the table. Mrs. Bonnell had ordered corn-starch pudding
with chocolate sauce. When she looked upon the viand before her she gave
a little cry of dismay.

"Wesley what is it?"

"De Lawd on'y know, Miss. I sho' don'. Dat Juno done sent it in."

"Go at once and ask her what she used in making this pudding. I have
never seen its equal."

"Ner I," chuckled Wesley as he hurried off. In five minutes he was back,
his hand across his mouth and struggling manfully not to disgrace
himself.

"Well?" queried Mrs. Bonnell, her lips twitching.

"She--she--" he strove to articulate. "She--she say she done got
de-de-sta-sta-sta'ch in--de la'ndry, an' she--she--taken dat fer ter be
ec'nomical an' save 'spence fer de school. It--it--wor lef' over by Aunt
Mandy f'om de washin'. She ain' think,--ha--ha,--she ain' think de
_bluin'_ in it mak' no diff'ence, he-he-he--. Please, ma'am, scuse me, I
can't stan' fo' no mo," and Wesley beat a hasty retreat.

Juno Daphne departed that afternoon, Mrs. Bonnell wishing to avoid the
services of a coroner.

As there was no study period on Friday evenings the girls were at liberty
to amuse themselves as they chose. At least, within limitations, though
they often miscalculated the limitations. The afternoon had been too dull
and cold for much outdoor exercise, so they had spent it in the gymnasium
practicing basket-ball. In March they would play a game with a team from
a town a few miles from Leslie Manor.

Beverly, Sally and Aileen were all on the team, Beverly having made it
through adaptability rather than knowledge, for she had never seen a
basketball before coming to school, but being as quick as a cat had made
good. Consequently the occupants of Suite 10 were glad to rest their
weary bodies upon couch or easy chairs when dinner was over, and Sally
was entertaining them with an account of her interview with Miss Baylis
after luncheon.

"She makes me tired. If it had been you, Bev, she would have sent you
down to Miss Woodhull's office in jig time. But I've a good one for Uncle
Tom," and Sally laughed.

"I wouldn't have cared if she had sent me. I'd rather come to an issue
with the Empress anytime than with Miss Baylis. But the whole thing was
funny as the mischief," answered Beverly from her big wicker chair.

"Let's make some fudge. I've got the needfuls, and it will sweeten our
tempers. Such things make me cross for hours. We don't indulge in petty
squabbles at home. Mother would be disgusted if she knew of some of the
things which take place here, and father would say there was something
wrong with the gasoline. He's just bought a new car so his metaphors are
apt to be gasoliney," laughed Aileen.

"What will you make the fudge in? You let Hope MacLeod have the chafing
dish."

Aileen looked daunted for a moment. Then her face lighted.

"I've a tin pail. I can make it in that."

"But _how_? You can't boil it without the lamp."

"Can't I? Just you watch me do it." Aileen was resourceful. In a few
minutes she had the mixture in her pail, and the pail swinging by a
string over the gas jet. Leslie Manor was quite up-to-date. It had gas as
well as electricity, though gas was not supposed to be used excepting in
cases of emergency. Once or twice the electric current had failed.

Aileen had fastened the string from one side of the room to the other on
a couple of picture hooks. A none too secure support. Then all three sat
down to wait until the fudge gave signs of boiling and promptly became
absorbed in a new interest, the Easter vacation.

In the midst of the conversation, Beverly paused. She had suddenly
remembered Petty's note.

"What's the matter?" asked Sally.

"I've forgotten something," she answered, scrambling from her chair and
crossing to her desk for her history. She would take the note back to
Petty. It was utter nonsense of course, but it was Petty's and if she was
pleased with such nonsense, she was welcome to it. She looked hurriedly
through the book. The note was not in it. Where could she have dropped
it? No, she had not dropped it, of that she was certain. She had taken
pains to keep the book tightly closed. She meant to have given the note
to Petty directly after luncheon. How provoking! Maybe Petty had seen her
catch it up and had come for it herself. She would go and ask her. As she
turned to make her intention known to the others there was a snap
overhead. The heat had burned Aileen's string before the fudge had begun
to boil and pail and contents descended upon the study table with a
rattle and splash, the hot mass scattering in every direction.

For the ensuing half hour the three girls had their hands full and Petty,
notes, history examination and all minor affairs were forgotten.




                               CHAPTER XIV

                              COMPLICATIONS


But Petty had _not_ taken the note from Beverly's history. It had been
removed by quite a different person. In fact about the last one either
Beverly or Petty would have dreamed of.

But of this a little later.

By the time the fudge had been cleaned off from everything within a
radius of five feet, for a more complete splash had never been made by
any descending mass, the "lights out" bells were ringing in all the
corridors. Miss Woodhull had only to press a series of buttons arranged
in the hall just outside her study door to produce the effect of the
needle-prick in the fairy tale. Every inmate immediately dropped asleep.
Every? Well, exceptions prove a rule, it is said.

The following morning Beverly told Petty the circumstances of picking up
the note and of its subsequent disappearance.

Petty was in despair and scolded and wept alternately, accusing Beverly
of having deliberately confiscated it, and hinting pretty broadly that
she had also read it.

The moment this accusation left her lips she regretted it because she
knew it to be utterly unfounded and the blaze which sprung into Beverly's
eyes warned the little shallow pate that she had ventured a bit too far.
She tried to retract by saying she was "nervous and excited and
_perfectly miserable_ at the loss of the letter. It was the first of
Reggie's letters she had _ever_ lost, and he had written every single day
for a _whole_ year."

"Three-hundred and sixty-five letters, and every one mushy?" cried
Beverly, incredulously. "I should think it would be worse than eating a
pound of nougat every day."

Petty alternately moped and searched all Saturday, but, of course to no
purpose. When Monday morning came she was in despair, and went to her
first recitation in a most emotional frame of mind.

It happened to be French, and Monsieur Sautelle had been the French
instructor but four months. Moreover, he had not yet been in America a
year and American girls, and things American, were not only new but a
constant source of marvel to him. He lived in a world of hitherto unknown
sensations and this morning was destined to experience an entirely new
one.

The period was nearly over before it came Petty's turn to recite and
Petty, as the result of having spent all her study period in a vain
search for the lost letter, was totally unprepared.

"Madamoiselle Gaylor, you will be so good as to come the conjugation of
the verb love, indi_ca_tive mood, if you please."

Unfortunate choice!

Petty was in a very indicative mood already. Had he chosen any other verb
she might have survived the ordeal, but under the circumstances to openly
affirm: "I love; Thou lovest; _he_ loves----."

Well, there are limits to every one's endurance under extreme emotion.

Petty hesitated and was lost. Not a word would come. Her throat throbbed
and it seemed as though that pound of nougat Beverly had alluded to must
be stuck in it.

"Proceed, if you please, Madamoiselle," urged Monsieur. Petty sat almost
directly in front of him, or rather she stood--Miss Woodhull wished each
pupil to stand while reciting--and upon being urged to "proceed" raised
to him a pair of violet eyes swimming in tears, and a face of abject woe.

Monsieur Sautelle was not over thirty. A dapper, exquisite little man. He
was distraught at the sight of this tearful damsel and, very naturally
attributed her distress to unpreparedness. Petty was a pretty,
inconsequential little creature born to play upon the feelings of one man
or another. It did not much matter who he happened to be so long as he
could satisfy the sentimental element in her makeup, and she was mostly
sentimentality.

"Madamoiselle I implore. Why these tears? You quite desolate me. It is no
such crushing matter that you do not know 'to love'."

"But oh, I do. I _do_," sobbed Petty.

"Then you will most kindly demonstrate that fact to the class. They
wait."

If ever instructor was taken literally Monsieur Sautelle was then and
there, for with an overpowering sob she swayed forward, flung both
arms about the dismayed man's neck and burying her face against his
immaculate collar, gurgled: "Oh, I love! I _do_ love! Thou lov-v-est!
He--He--loves----_me_!"

It was the most astonishing conjugation the startled Professor had ever
heard in all his thirty years, and he frantically strove to remove the
clinging damsel, at the same time commanding: "Madamoiselle,
Madamoiselle, make yourself tranquil! You will cease at once. Mees
Woodhull! Mees Stetson, Mees--Mees."

Now it so happened that Miss Stetson's recitation room adjoined Monsieur
Sautelle's. She heard his call and responded with wingéd feet, arriving
upon the scene just as Eleanor Allen, Petty's bosom friend, had sprung to
her side, and while in reality striving to untwine Petty's clinging arms
seemed also to be in the act of embracing the French teacher.

What followed is almost too painful to dwell upon, but within ten
minutes, all three actors in the little drama were arraigned before Miss
Woodhull and it was only Eleanor's clever tongue which saved the
situation. She stated very emphatically that Petty had been too ill to
study on Saturday evening; she did not feel it necessary to name the
nature of the malady. That it had been impossible for Petty to prepare
her lessons for Monday and that her act was purely the outcome of nervous
excitement and held no personal demonstration toward Professor Sautelle.

This statement the Professor was more than delighted to back up and
Petty's tears clenched it. Miss Woodhull could not endure tears; she had
never shed one in her life so far as she could recall--and she wished to
end the scene forthwith. Consequently the Professor was politely
dismissed and speedily went to procure fresh linen. Under Miss Stetson's
charge Petty was sent to the Infirmary, where she was detained a week,
and Eleanor was bidden to go to her next recitation. But Eleanor, who was
Petty's confidant in all things, instantly decided to keep her trump card
to be played when the moment should be ripe. Eleanor had missed her
vocation in life. She should have been in the Turkish diplomatic service
instead of in an American boarding school.

Eleanor had taken the note from Beverly's history. She did so because,
having seen Beverly pick it up and place it there she decided, from
innate suspicion of all her fellow beings, that Beverly meant to use it
to Petty's undoing. It never occurred to her that Beverly could entertain
a generous motive toward a girl whom she held in aversion if not
contempt. Then the note once in her possession she wished to keep it a
day or so, in the hope that Petty might discover for herself where it had
gone. It never entered her head that Beverly would go straight to Petty
and explain the situation, and in a reticent freak quite uncommon to her
nature, Petty had not confided this fact to Eleanor. And now it was out
of the question to do so for the pupils were not permitted to visit the
girls in the Infirmary.

Two weeks later the basket-ball game with the rival school was imminent
and the team was working like mad. Leslie Manor had been beaten the year
before and a second defeat would spell disgrace. Eleanor was on the
sub-team. So was Electra. The captain and one forward were seniors.
Aileen center, Sally a forward, Beverly had made good as guard and was
working like a Trojan for the great event.

The Friday afternoon before the game a party of girls were taken to the
village to do some shopping. Nothing more diverting than purchasing new
shoe ties, hairpins, bows, and various other trifles. Also to make sure
that the decorations ordered for the gymnasium would be punctually sent
over to the school that afternoon and last, but by no means least, to
indulge in chocolate sodas etc., at the big drug store.

It so happened that Miss Forsdyke, the Latin teacher was acting as
chaperone that afternoon and Miss Forsdyke was alive just exactly two
thousand years after her time. She should have lived about 55 B.C., for
in reality she was living in that period right in the Twentieth Century
A.D. and was so lost to all things modern, and so buried in all things
ancient, that she was never quite fully alive to those happening all
around her. As a chaperone she was "just dead easy" Sally said. A more
absent-minded creature it would have been hard to come upon.

Sally, Aileen and Beverly were lingering over the last delicious
mouthfuls of nut sundaes. Electra had finished hers and gone to an
adjoining counter to make a purchase. Miss Forsdyke, who had declined
Sally's invitation to have a sundae, was selecting a tooth brush at an
adjoining counter when Beverly asked:

"Miss Forsdyke, why can't we carry the flags and ribbons back with us?
Then we would be sure of them."

Miss Forsdyke laid down the tooth brush, picked it up again, hesitated,
then walked toward Beverly, saying, "I am not quite sure that Miss
Woodhull would approve. She does not like the pupils to carry
parcels--large ones, I mean--and these would be quite large, would they
not?"

"Then why not phone to her to ask if we may?" suggested Sally.

"Why-er-I-suppose I-I could. Will you kindly direct me to the public
tooth brush?" she turned to the clerk to ask. "Oh no, no, I mean the
public telephone booth," she corrected, coloring a deep pink.

"It's behind you," answered the clerk, trying not to laugh, and pointing
to the booth which was exactly behind Miss Forsdyke. Still grasping her
tooth brush she scuttled into the booth.

Naturally, Electra had been an interested listener and Electra's mind did
not grasp two ideas simultaneously as a rule. She had not yet made her
wants known to the clerk, who stood deferentially waiting for her to do
so. As the possibility seemed vague he asked politely.

"What can I do for you, Miss?" and nearly disappeared beneath the show
case when Electra answered.

"Will you please give me a glass eye. No, no, I mean a glass eye _cup_."

"That's no school, it's a blooming lunatic asylum," clerk No. 1 declared
to clerk No. 2 as the last pair of shoeheels disappeared through the
door, "an' the _old_ one's the looniest of them all."

Nevertheless, some of those "lunatics" put up a good game of basket-ball
the next afternoon.

As the game progressed the school and the spectators were jubilant. At
least one-half of the latter were, and none more so than two girls who
had come with the rival team, as all the Leslie Manor girls believed,
and, although strangers, certainly enthused more over the blue and
yellow, the Leslie Manor colors, than over the green and red.

"Look at those two stunning girls in the third row on the left side,
Aileen. Do you know who they are?" asked Sally, during one of the
intermissions.

"Never laid eyes on them before," replied Aileen. Isn't the tall fair one
beautiful though? I've never seen such eyes and skin in all my life.

"She knows how to dress too, believe me," was Sally's admiring comment.
"That's a stunning velveteen suit she has on, and her hat well, New York
or Paris, sure."

"The smaller one must be attractive too. But isn't it funny that she
should wear her chiffon veil under her lace one instead of outside of it?
I wish she'd raise them properly; I want to get a good look at her face.
Somehow she reminds me of someone I've met before but I can't think of
whom. We'll ask Beverly." But just then the whistle blew and the game was
on again.

When Leslie Manor won on a score of twenty to seven, the girl in the
chiffon veil jumped to her feet, pitched her muff high into the air and
yelled. Then evidently overwhelmed with mortification at her wild
demonstration instantly dropped back upon her chair, aided in her descent
thereto by a vigorous tug from her companion.

At Beverly's grasping, "Oh!" Aileen and Sally started. Beverly had not
noticed the two girls until that instant.

"What's the matter?" asked Sally.

"Nothing. Just a funny kink in my side. It's all over now."

"You've played too hard. I knew you would. Come quick and get a good
rub-down. You're nearly all in. Why didn't we realize it sooner. Come
on," and full of solicitude they hurried her away to the dressing-room,
her supposed indisposition driving all thoughts of the strange girls from
their heads, and when the three were dressed and ready to join their
companions the visitors had disappeared; gone undoubtedly with others who
had come to witness the game, and they never thought to mention their
presence to Beverly.

That they in common with the other guests had been ushered into Miss
Woodhull's library, where, agreeable to custom, hot chocolate was served,
had each, by some miraculous means contrived to be served _three times_,
and had held a brief but most flattering conversation with Miss Woodhull,
Sally, Beverly and Aileen never suspected. When they took their departure
Miss Woodhull suddenly remembered that they had not been introduced to
her and that she had not the vaguest idea of their names. Which of her
teachers or pupils had been so very remiss?




                               CHAPTER XV

                             THE TRUMP CARD


It so happened that the presence of the two strange girls had aroused the
curiosity of someone else, and that this somebody being of a suspicious
nature at all times required but little to set her fancies a-galloping.
She had watched the girls all through the game, and at its end sped away
to the dressing room and changed her clothes with remarkable expedition.
Then, instead of joining her companions in Miss Woodhull's reception
room, where tea was to be served to pupils and guests, she hurried into
her outdoor garments, and slipped out of a side door, made her way around
the house to a clump of fir trees in which she could watch undetected all
who left the main entrance of Leslie Manor.

She did not have to wait long. The two girls were among the first to
leave, but instead of following the broad main walk as the other guests
did, they turned into a side path as though wishing to stroll about the
grounds. The moment they were out of sight the suspicious one was
hot-foot upon their trail, and Miss Eleanor Allen was compelled to do
some lively stepping out in order to overtake her quarry. Only they were
certainly most athletic young women if one might judge from the manner in
which they strode forward.

Naturally at that season of the year the outskirts of the grounds were
entirely deserted. The elegantly dressed young ladies hurried toward a
dense clump of cedars which grew near the prickly holly hedge, and, to
Eleanor's amazement, the wearer of the big chiffon veil began to tug and
haul at it until it came loose, while the taller girl began to divest
herself of her handsome fur collar and coat. Eleanor gasped, and the next
moment nearly passed away, for now Miss "Chiffon-Veil's" skirts fell from
her, and Miss "Tall-Blonde" began to wriggle out of _her_ garments as a
boy might wriggle out of his coat and vest.... It was all Eleanor could
do to repress a cry of horror. Then off fell the big hat, the hair coming
with it, and before her stood a tall, fair boy in his trousers and shirt.

"Gee Whiz! Ath, pitch me my coat quick! Those girl's togs nearly
smothered me and now I'm freezing," he cried.

The garments desired were picked out of a bundle of things hidden in the
cedars, and flung at the shivering blonde, who promptly scrambled into
it, and drew from one of the pockets a cap, which he jammed down upon his
curly pate. Then swooping down he caught up the feminine gear lying upon
the ground, jammed it pell mell into a laundry bag, and heaved it over
the hedge into the road beyond, his companion, now having cast his outer
raiment, doing precisely the same thing. Then both shinned up a tall tree
whose branches overhung the road, walked like rope-walkers along a branch
which topped the hedge, and dropped lightly to the ground. Eleanor ran to
the hedge in time to see the laundry bags pitched upon the backs of two
waiting horses, the boys scramble upon their mounts and with a whoop of
triumph go pelting off down the road.

"Well, I never! Well, I never!" gasped Miss Paulina Pry, which was
unquestionably the absolute truth, though not characteristic. "That was
Beverly Ashby's brother and her beau!" Eleanor's selection of common
nouns was at times decidedly common. "Now, Miss High-and-Mighty, we will
see what happens to girls who are so very superior to other girls but can
read their letters and sneak boys into our school against rules," and
back she sped to the house, filled to the brim with knowledge, but with
such a paucity of wisdom in her brain that it was a wonder she kept to
the path. It was a pity that no one was at hand to quote for her benefit:
"Knowledge is haughty that she knows so much, but Wisdom is humble that
she knows no more."

From the moment Eleanor Allen entered Leslie Manor, she had been Petty
Gaylord's slave, and a more complete "crush" never was known. Flowers,
candy, books, and what not were lavished upon her adored one. Everything
that Petty would accept, and since Petty's discrimination was not of the
nicest order all proved fish which fell into her net. Eleanor lived in
the atmosphere of Petty's thrilling romance until she almost felt it to
be her own. She had seen the lost letter flutter to the schoolroom floor,
and had also seen Beverly pick it up. Her first impulse was to run and
tell Petty, but had no opportunity to do so in the classroom. Then she
decided to effect its rescue herself, and while the others were at
luncheon had slipped into Beverly's room and extracted the note from her
history. She never dreamed that Beverly meant to return it to Petty and
did not know that she had gone to her the following morning to explain
its loss as well as she was able. Eleanor intended to give Petty the note
at once, but when circumstances had prevented her from doing so for
several hours, she made up her mind to keep it in her own possession in
order to use it to Beverly's undoing. Just how this was to be compassed
she had no very clear idea, and _now_ had come a fine opening. She hated
Beverly because she had laughed at Petty's love affair, and ignored
completely the one who worshipped at Petty's shrine. The scene in
Professor Sautelle's room had nearly thrown Beverly into hysterics, and
Eleanor had also witnessed that. Oh, she had a long score against Beverly
Ashby.

That evening as Miss Woodhull sat by her study table reading a tap came
upon her door and Eleanor entered at the word "Come."

Miss Woodhull was not over-pleased at being interrupted in the midst of a
thrilling article on the Suffrage question and the militant doings of her
wronged sisters in England. "Well?" she queried crisply.

"I would like to speak to you, Miss Woodhull."

"Very well, speak," was the terse reply.

This was somewhat disconcerting. Eleanor coughed.

"Will you be good enough to state your errand without further peroration.
I do not relish being interrupted in my reading."

"I--I--thought I ought to tell you,--to show you--I mean you ought to see
this note which I found," and Eleanor crossed the room to Miss Woodhull's
side, the note held toward her.

She took it, asking as she did so: "Why come to me about so trivial a
matter? What is it? Where did you find it?"

"I didn't think it trivial and that is why I came right to you," Eleanor
replied, ignoring the embarrassing questions.

Miss Woodhull opened the note. The first line acted like a galvanic
shock. She sat up rigid as a lamp post. The words were "Darling Little
Sweetheart:--" Then she read on:

"When I close my eyes I can still feel your soft arms about my neck and
your kisses upon my lips. I can't wait much longer for you, darling.
Something must be done. I just can't stand it. I've got to see you before
Easter. It's no use to say I can't, because I'm going to--somehow. So
don't be surprised at anything. Leslie Manor is not so many miles away
and ways and means can be contrived in spite of all the old maid
guardians that ever lived. Wonder if the old lady knows how it feels to
have a man kiss her? I bet she don't! I've never seen your Suffragette
queen, but I don't need to after all you've told me about her. She must
be a cuckoo.

"So keep your weather eye piped, sweetness and leave the rest to your

                                                          Adoring 'Boy'"

By the time the Empress reached the last word of that missive her face
had assumed the color of a gobbler's wattles, and her eyes were blazing.
Eleanor was nearly frightened to death at the Genius of Wrath which she
had invoked.

"To whom does this nauseating thing belong?"

"It was not in an envelope when I found it, Miss Woodhull."

"Where did you find it?"

Eleanor hesitated, it would never do to seem too communicative.

"Did you understand my question?"

"Yes, Miss Woodhull."

"Then reply at once."

"I found it in the south wing," she said hesitatingly.

"Ah!" The word was exhaled triumphantly. "In the lower end of that wing?"

"Yes, Miss Woodhull."

"Near Suite 10?"

She recalled the tall, acrobatic visitor of All Saints' Eve. She had
always suspected Beverly and her suspicions had been confirmed when
Admiral Ashby asked her to sanction visits from Athol and Archie. "You
did quite right to come to me with this letter. It is far too serious a
matter to be dealt with by my subordinates. I highly commend your
discretion. I shall sift the matter to the bottom."

Eleanor winced. That "sifting" might change from a small affair to a
large one, as a snowball may grow into an avalanche. Then she said with
well-assumed contrition, "Oh, Miss Woodhull, I would not for the world
accuse _anyone_. It may be just fun----"

"There is no element of fun in such a letter as this, and absolutely no
humor. I have realized for some time that a decided atmosphere was being
created in this school, but have been unable to discover its origin, and
_this_," giving the letter the vicious shake a terrier would give a rat,
"may prove the touchstone. I need hardly enjoin absolute secrecy upon
your part. You have already proved your discretion. If you make any
further discoveries you will, of course, come to me at once. By-the-way,
when did you find the letter?"

"Why--er--several days ago, Miss Woodhull."

"Then why have you so long delayed coming to me?" The eyes were very
searching.

"I was afraid--afraid--I might be mistaken. That after all it really
didn't mean anything. The girls often play jokes upon one another, you
know."

"Not such senseless jokes as this one I trust. What caused you to alter
your opinion?"

The professional stage certainly missed a star when it failed to discover
Eleanor. She hesitated, looked down, then up with appealing eyes. She
twisted her fingers together and untwisted them. She shifted from one
foot to the other, all of which was maddeningly irritating to Miss
Woodhull.

"This is no time for hesitation,--speak!"

"This afternoon," whispered Eleanor.

"Sit in that chair and tell me everything without further circumlocution."
The tone was final.

With appropriate hesitancy the events of the afternoon were graphically
pictured for the Empress. When they were completely drawn she said with
the grimness of Fate: "You may go, but remember, not one word to your
companions." A most superfluous admonition, for Eleanor was nearly
petrified with fear as it was. She retreated to her room with all
possible speed and her room-mate wondered what had taken place to make
her look so pale, but refrained from asking questions. Eleanor and her
room-mate were not entirely congenial.

It was close to nine-thirty when she entered her room which was on the
floor above Beverly's. Down in hospitable Suite 10 the social spirit was
rampant. The Basket-ball victory was being celebrated by a spread. Light
bell did not ring until ten Saturday nights. Beverly was in the act of
biting into a chocolate eclair when Miss Stetson came to the door.
Beverly was sitting back to it and supposed it was one of her companions.

As all will concede, an eclair is, to say the least, an uncertain
quantity. Even upon a plate and carefully manipulated with a fork, it is
given to erratic performances. When held between a thumb and forefinger,
and _bitten_ into, its possibilities are beyond conjecture. Miss Stetson
appeared at a most inopportune moment (she usually did) and each girl
rose to her feet, Beverly under the circumstances being the last to do so
because she had no idea that Miss Stetson was anywhere near No. 10. Her
tardy uprising brought about the inevitable result. Her teeth came
together upon her eclair and the filling escaped its bounds, landing in
many places that it should not have landed. When Miss Stetson had removed
about a tablespoonful of cream filling from her bosom, she said icily:
"Miss Ashby, you are to report at Miss Woodhull's study at once," and
utterly ignored Beverly's apologies.

"Report at Miss Woodhull's office at nine-thirty at night?"

Consternation fell upon the revellers. The hair had snapped and Damocles'
sword had certainly fallen.




                               CHAPTER XVI

                                A CRISIS


Fully as bewildered as the girls she had left behind her, Beverly went
quickly to Miss Woodhull's study. So far as she could recollect nothing
could be scored against her deportment unless, at this late date her wild
gallop to Kilton Hall had become known, or the presence of Athol and
Archie at the Hallowe'en frolic had been discovered. True, she had
recognized Athol and his companion as they were leaving the gymnasium
that afternoon, but she did not believe that any one else had. As to any
foreknowledge of that prank she had not had the slightest. So her
conscience was quite clear on that score anyway. She tapped at the door
and was bidden enter. Miss Woodhull's expression as she looked at Beverly
was most forbidding.

"Good-evening, Miss Woodhull. Miss Stetson said you wished to see me."

Utterly ignoring the greeting, Miss Woodhull thrust toward Beverly the
incriminating letter, at the same time demanding: "Who has had the
audacity to send such a thing as this to you while you are a pupil in my
school?"

Beverly started at sight of the lost love billet, Miss Woodhull noted the
start and a sneer curved her set lips.

"No one sent it to me, Miss Woodhull," she answered calmly.

"You will probably add that you have never seen it before."

Beverly did not reply.

"Answer me at once."

"Yes, I have seen it before."

"Where did you last see it?"

"In my English history book."

"How came it there, pray?"

"I put it there myself."

"And yet you have the temerity to tell me that it is not yours? Are you
in the habit of reading letters which are addressed to other people?"

"Was the letter addressed, Miss Woodhull? It was not even in an envelope
when it came into my possession."

"You have no doubt destroyed the envelope. Nevertheless, I must insist
upon knowing who wrote that letter."

"I cannot tell you, Miss Woodhull. I have never looked at the signature."

"How dare you resort to such fencing with me? You cannot evade a direct
answer, for I have resolved to learn the writer's name, and report him to
the principal of his school," asserted Miss Woodhull, jumping at
conclusions.

"I cannot tell you the writer's name."

"You mean that you _will_ not. But, I warn you, this obstinacy only adds
to the gravity of the situation."

"It is not obstinacy, Miss Woodhull; I do not know it."

"Yet you admit having had this open letter in your possession and insist
that it is not your own? A curious combination, to say the least," was
the sarcastic retort.

"I had the letter, but it is not mine. I never read it, and I do not know
the writer's name." This was entirely true, Beverly had never heard dear
"Reggie's" surname.

"Perhaps you are likewise ignorant of the identity of the two people who
masqueraded as Tweedle-dee and Jack o' Lantern?"

"They were my brother and his friend Archie," was the prompt reply.

"Ah! Then you will admit something of this intrigue."

"If it can be called by so portentious a name," answered Beverly smiling.

That smile acted like a match to gunpowder. Miss Woodhull's temper and
self-control vanished together, and for a few moments Beverly was the
object of a scathing volley of sarcastic invective. As it waxed hotter
and hotter Beverly grew colder and colder, though her eyes and cheeks
were blazing.

"It is useless to keep up this silly deception. You may as well try to
make me believe that you were not aware of the presence of your brother
and your silly sweetheart disguised as girls this afternoon, and that you
did not lay the whole disgraceful plan for them to escape at the rear of
the grounds." Miss Woodhull did not confide to Beverly that she had been
most beautifully hoodwinked by those same girls, who had actually gone
into the reception room, partaken of the "eats" with the other guests,
held charmingly lisping conversations with two or three of the faculty,
Miss Woodhull included, who had afterward commented upon the "charming
manners of the two young girls who had come from Luray," they having so
informed that lady.

"Sweetheart?" repeated Beverly in amazement. It was the one word which
burned itself into her brain. The tone in which she echoed it ought to
have enlightened Miss Woodhull. "Archie my sweetheart?"

"I dare say that is what you call him, since he so terms you in this
missive," sneered Miss Woodhull.

"Archie is like an older brother to me, Miss Woodhull. We were raised
together," said Beverly with a simple dignity which should have
prohibited further taunts of the kind.

"Raised?" queried the lady. "Do you class yourself with the vegetable or
the lower animal kingdom?"

"I think you must have heard that expression used before in Virginia,"
was the quiet reply, though her cheeks grew a deeper red, and had Mrs.
Ashby been present, and occupying the tribunal it is safe to assume that
she would have been prepared for something to happen right speedily.
Indeed it was a wonder something had not happened long ago.

"It is just such barbarisms of speech that I have spent a quarter of a
century in a vain endeavor to eliminate from the extraordinary vocabulary
of this section of the United States, but I recognize it to be a Sisyphus
task. That, however, is aside the question. The vital ones at this moment
are: By whom was this letter written? When did you receive it? What is
the meaning of its contents, and how you could have had the audacity to
hold clandestine meetings with this young man? Also, how many times he
has actually forced himself into my school disguised as a girl?"

In a slow even voice Beverly replied to each question:

"I do not know the name of the person who wrote that letter. I never
received it. I can not tell you the meaning of the contents because I do
not know them. I have never held any clandestine meetings with Athol or
Archie, and so far as I knew until after the game today they had been in
this school but once. At that time I knew they were coming and we did it
partly for a lark and partly because I wanted so terribly to see Athol."
A little catch came into her voice just there. Miss Woodhull wholly
misinterpreted the reason for it and murmured sarcastically:

_"Athol."_

"Yes, my twin brother, Miss Woodhull. I do not expect _you_ to understand
what we have always been to each other. As to their presence here this
afternoon, I knew absolutely nothing of it until Athol pitched his muff
into the air and gave our old yell of victory at the end of the game,"
and Beverly nearly laughed at the recollection of her start when the old
familiar sound fell upon her ears, and the memory of the way in which
that muff had hurtled into the air.

"Your mirth is most ill-timed, Miss Ashby. This is by no means a
facetious occasion, please understand. I do not lightly tolerate the
infringement of my rules, as you will learn to your cost. If, as you
state, you are ignorant of the contents of this letter you may now read
it aloud in my presence. Perhaps that may refresh your memory and enable
you to answer _truthfully_ the other questions."

Miss Woodhull held the letter toward Beverly. The girl did not stir.

"Did you understand my command?"

"I did, Miss Woodhull. I have already told you the entire truth, but I
must decline to read that letter because it is not mine."

"Decline! Decline!" almost shrieked the infuriated principal. "Do you
dare defy my commands?"

"I do not wish to defy your orders, Miss Woodhull, but I can not read
someone else's letter."

Beverly's voice was trembling partly from nervousness, partly from
outraged pride.

"You shall read that letter to me whether it is yours or not though I
have not the slightest doubt that it is yours, and that you are trying to
shield yourself behind some purely fictitious person. You seem to possess
a lively imagination."

Beverly stood rigid. Miss Woodhull waited.

"Perhaps you will be good enough to give a name to your fictitious
being?"

"I do know to whom that letter was sent, for I saw her drop it. I picked
it up to return it to her, but before I could do so it disappeared from
my history. I could not help reading the first line because it stood out
so plainly before me when I picked the letter from the floor. I know
nothing further of its contents, and I do not wish to. That line was
silly enough. The girl did not know what had become of it until I went to
her later and told her about finding it and also about its loss
afterward. From that moment to this I have never laid eyes upon it, and I
wish I never had seen it at all. You may believe me or not as you choose,
but until I came into this school such things had never entered my head,
and mother and Uncle Athol would be perfectly disgusted with the whole
showdown. And so am I." Beverly paused for want of breath.

_"Who dropped that letter?"_ The words were in italics, notwithstanding
the fact that some vague doubts were beginning to form in the back of the
principal's brain.

"Do you for one second think that I will tell you?" blazed Beverly.

"I am very positive that you will tell me without a moment's delay, or
you will be suspended from this school within twenty-four hours, if not
expelled. Her name! At once!"

"I shall never tell you no matter what you do to me. What do you take me
for? How _dare_ you think me capable of such a low-down, mucker trick?"
Unconsciously she had lapsed into Athol's vernacular. It was the last
touch to Miss Woodhull's wrath. She actually flew up out of her chair and
catching Beverly by her shoulders shook her soundly. Then it all happened
in a flash. Miss Woodhull was a tall woman and a large woman as well. She
weighed at least one-hundred-seventy pounds. But from lack of proper
exercise (she loathed walking) and the enjoyment of the many luxuries
which the past successful years had made possible, she was exactly like a
well-modeled India rubber figure.

Beverly was tall for a girl not yet sixteen, and as the result of having
grown up with two active healthy boys, and having done every earthly
thing which they had done, she was a living, vital bunch of energy and
well-developed muscles, and fully as strong as Athol.

Never since tiny childhood when Mammy Riah had smacked her for some
misdeed, or her mother had spanked her for some real transgression, had
hand been laid upon her excepting in a caress. That any human being could
so lose her self-control as to resort to such methods of correction she
would not have believed possible.

Then in a flash all the fighting blood of the Ashbys and Seldons boiled,
and with a cry of outraged feelings Beverly Ashby laid hold of Miss
Woodhull's flabby arms with a pair of slender muscular hands, backed her
by main force against the chair which she had so hastily vacated, and
plumped that dumbfounded lady down upon it with a force which made her
teeth crack together, as she cried indignantly:

"How dare you touch me! How dare you!"

Then with a whirl she was across the room, out of the door and up the
stairs to Study 10, which she entered like a cyclone and rushed across
into her bedroom, slamming and locking the door.

What mental processes took place behind that locked door her astonished
room-mates, who had been eagerly awaiting her return, could not even
guess, and dared not venture to inquire. Not a sound came from the room.

"What do you suppose has happened?" asked Sally breathlessly.

"Something a good deal more serious than we have any idea of. Beverly
Ashby is not the kind of girl to look or act like that without a mighty
good cause. Did you notice her face? It frightened me," was Aileen's awed
reply.

"What can we do?" asked Sally in deep distress.

"Not one single, solitary thing, and that's the very worst of it. We
don't even know what has happened," and the two girls began to prepare
for bed in a bewildered sort of way.

Meanwhile down in that perfectly appointed study a very dazed woman sat
rigid and silent. For the very first time in all her life she had
encountered a will stronger than her own, had met in the person of an
individual only a quarter of her own age a force which had literally and
figuratively swept her off her feet and set at naught a resolution which
she believed to be indomitable. And worst of all, it had all come to pass
because she had lost her self-control. Up to her own outbreak Miss
Woodhull was forced to admit that Beverly had been absolutely courteous.
It was purely her own act which had precipitated that climax. For fully
half an hour she sat as one stunned, then she said, and the words almost
hissed from her colorless lips:

"I shall make an example of her! She shall be expelled in disgrace!"
though then and there she resolved that none should ever learn of that
final scene, and--well--somehow, though she could not explain her
conviction, she knew that the outside world would never learn of it
through Beverly.




                              CHAPTER XVII

                          IN THE WEE SMA' HOURS


When Beverly swept into her room her thoughts were like a seething
cauldron; One instant one impression boiled to the surface, only to be
submerged the very next by others surging to the top. She could not think
connectedly. Everything seemed jumbled pell mell in her brains. Just one
incident took definite shape: She had been shaken like a naughty child
and told that she was lying. And all because every instinct of honor and
justice forbade her betraying a class-mate, even though she entertained
for her little less than contempt. And the effect of Miss Woodhull's act
was very much as though a man had deliberately walked up to Admiral
Seldon, accused him of lying and slapped his face.

During the six months which she had spent at Leslie Manor, Beverly Ashby
had been no more nor less than just herself: neither better nor worse
than the average girl. But for her six months in a boarding-school
presided over by a woman who had never known any real girlhood, or
girlhood's exuberance, was an experience far different than for the
average girl. Miss Woodhull had grown more and more iconoclastic, and
more of a law unto herself with each advancing year. She had become as
adamant to all natural impulses, and apparently dead to all affection.
Bitterly intolerant of suggestion, advice, or even the natural laws of
ethics. With each year she had grown more difficult to live with, and
less and less fitted to govern growing girls. But in the beginning the
school had established a reputation for the thoroughness of its
curriculum and its instruction, as well as for its discipline, and there
is little doubt that some of the girls which had come to it during the
past thirty years were in need of some discipline.

But Beverly Ashby was not of the type who required discipline of the
order Miss Woodhull believed in. Beverly had lived for more than fifteen
years under the discipline of love and good judgement, and had developed
fairly well in that atmosphere. Her mother had never reproved or punished
her in anger. The Admiral, while adoring her, was "boss of the ship," and
both she and Athol had always recognized that fact. His word was law.
Moreover, she had always been treated as a reasoning human being
_invariably_ trusted; a nice code of honor having been established from
the moment the twins could understand the meaning of that fine old word.
And that is much earlier in children's lives than a good many grownups
believe.

No wonder an outraged little mortal now sat at her window, her heart
beating tattoo, her temples throbbing, her cheeks blazing, her eyes
flashing, but her hands clenched and icy cold. There she sat until all
sounds in the big house were hushed. She was as rigid as though carved
from marble, even though her breath came and went pantingly.

The hand upon the clock in the stable tower crept from hour to hour, the
bell telling off the half-hours. She neither saw nor heard. Then came the
twelve long deliberate strokes announcing the witching hour. At the first
stroke Beverly started into life. By the time the last had sounded the
pretty pink dinner gown she had been wearing lay in a tumbled heap upon
the bed where she had tossed it.

By this time the moon which had been pouring its flood of light into her
room was dropping behind the tall trees and the room was growing dark.
The steam heat had long since died down and the room was cold. She was
entirely unconscious of physical conditions. Silently as a shadow she
worked, and with the swiftness of a cloud scudding before a gale of wind.
In ten minutes the room was in perfect order and she was garbed in her
stout riding-boots, heavy riding skirt, a warm flannel shirt waist and
heavy sweater. Her wool skating cap was pulled tight down about her ears,
and she carried her riding crop in her gloved hands.

Gently raising her window she slipped out upon the piazza roof, crawled
upon her hands and knees to the edge, tossed her riding crop to the
ground and then, boy-fashion slid down the piazza pillar as easily as
Athol could have done it. Picking up the riding crop she sped across the
lawn to the stable, well hidden by the foliage.

Andrew Jackson Jefferson and his two assistants slept in a little cottage
behind the stable. The stable door was locked but a small window at the
side had been left open for ventilation. Monkey-wise she scrambled up and
through it. A low nickering from the horses greeted her; they knew her at
once. Apache was contentedly munching his hay. Horses sleep or eat
capriciously. To slip on his bridle, adjust and cinch his saddle took but
a few minutes. Then she led him from his stall, silently unbarred the big
doors, led him outside, again closed the doors carefully, and mounted
him. The night was clear and cold. The moon, though now well toward the
western mountains, still made it bright. Not a sound had Beverly uttered
for over two hours, but now, leaning forward she clasped both arms around
the little broncho's neck, rested her face against his mane, and
whispered:

"Apache, no Seldon or Ashby can ever be told that they are lying. Do you
understand? We are going back to people who don't say such things. It's a
long distance, and I don't know the way very well I may get lost, but I
don't believe that _you_ will. Take me safely home, Apache. _Please,
please_ take me home to dear old Woodbine and mother and Uncle Athol and
Mammy Riah and Athol and--and everybody I love."

A little sob ended the entreaty, and as though he understood every word
she had spoken Apache gave a neigh loud enough to waken the Seven
Sleepers.

Beverly clapped her hand across his nostrils as she cried:

"Oh, you mustn't! You will wake everybody up! Go!" and with a bound
Apache went, but as though he now fully understood he swept like a shadow
across the lawn, out through a side gate and down the pike. Jefferson on
his cot in the cottage roused enough to mutter:

"Dat hawse a-hollerin'. I bettah get up an' see----" and then resumed his
snore just where Apache's farewell had interrupted it. And out in the
great lonely, silent night the little horse sped away like the wind. For
a mile Beverly let Apache gang his ain gait, then she drew him down to
the steady lope which he could keep up for hours without tiring.

The lines: "But there is a road from Winchester town, A good broad
highway leading down," might have been written of the first five miles of
the road Beverly was following, and which led to Front Royal. Those miles
were covered in less than half an hour. But over thirty still lay ahead
and some of them would have been pretty rough riding even in summer time
and with the roads in good condition.

The moon was now dropping behind the distant range of the great North
Mountains, the air was chill and penetrating, and the dense darkness
which precedes the dawn enveloped all the world. Front Royal, save for a
few scattered, flickering lights, lay in absolute darkness. Beverly drew
a quick breath and shut her teeth hard. From Front Royal to Luray her way
must be on dead reckoning and Apache's incomprehensible instinct, and
those miles seemed to Beverly to be double the length of ordinary miles.
Still, she knew, that she could not go far astray if she kept between the
railroad and the river, so plucking up her courage she fled through the
sleeping town like a wraith. Once beyond it the roads branched and her
first doubt had to be settled. Dismounting, she went close to the stone
mile post and tried to read the sign. She managed to make out the name,
but it might as well have been Greek. She knew nothing of the town
indicated three miles beyond.

"Apache," she said desperately, "do you know that it's up to _you_?" Then
she looked to her saddle cinch and her stirrup straps, took the little
beast's head in her arms and hugged him, and kissed his velvety muzzle.
"Yes, it's up to you. You've got to pull out for Woodbine and Uncle Abel
somehow."

Perhaps Uncle Abel's name was the pass word. At any rate, Apache nuzzled
Beverly, neighed, pawed the ground impatiently, and indicated in every
possible way that he would do all any horse could.

"All right then. Now make good!" and with a light spring she was again in
the saddle.

There is no time to dwell in detail upon that dark, cold, terrible ride
between Front Royal and Luray. Beverly had never been so cold in all her
life. She let Apache choose his own way, and take his own gait, which was
now slow and doubtful, and then like an arrow, as his confidence grew.
Luray was reached in time and skirted, then all was plain sailing to
Sprucy Branch fourteen miles beyond. Apache had often been to Luray and
knew every inch of that road, but Beverly was by that time nearly numb
from the cold. Then:

               "As if he knew the terrible need,
               He stretched away with the utmost speed.
               Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay
               With _Woodbine_ only eight miles away."

Three-thirty A. M. had just been struck by the ship's clock near the head
of Admiral Seldon's bed, the "seven bells" rousing him slightly. He had
never ceased counting time by "watches," and as sure as "morning watch"
drew near he would waken. The habits of early years are not readily
forsaken.

The faintest suggestion of dawn was visible over the Blue Ridge when,
instead of turning over again and settling down for his last, snug
morning nap, the old gentleman started wide awake and keenly alert.

"Had he heard a horse neigh?" Impossible! The stables were too far from
his bedchamber for any such sound to reach him. "Reckon I must have been
dreaming of Beverly and her little skallawag," he said softly, and was
about to settle down once more when a neigh, loud, clear and insistent,
pierced the crisp morning air.

"What the ----?" he cried, springing out of bed with surprising agility
for his years, and switching on the electric lights. Hurrying to the
window which commanded the sweep of the driveway he peered out. In the
faint light the indistinct outline of a horse was visible.

"Now which of those young devils of colts has escaped?" was his query, as
he hastily donned his clothes, and started down stairs.

But that neigh had been heard by others also, and as the Admiral reached
the end of the hall Mrs. Ashby came from her bedroom arrayed in bath robe
and bed slippers.

"What is it?" she asked.

"The Lord only knows. One of those confounded colts broken loose I dare
say, and if it is I'll crack Uncle Abel's head for him," and away he
hurried.

But Uncle Abel, who possessed six instead of five senses, the sixth being
"horse sense" had heard that neigh, too, and the ceremony of his robing
requiring less time than the Admiral's, he was already speeding toward
that sound as fast as his old legs would carry him. As he turned the
corner of the house he was welcomed by a most jubilant neigh, and the
next second had reached the steaming Apache, and exclaiming:

"Ma Lawd-Gawd-A'mighty, what done happen! Is dat yo', Miss Bev'ly? Baby!
Honey! Is yo' daid?" for a rigid, unconscious little figure was leaning
forward with her arms clasped tightly around the panting horse's neck.

Quicker than it takes to tell it Abel had unclasped the clinging arms and
was tenderly lifting her from the horse's back. At that moment the
Admiral burst through the big front door and came striding across the
lawn, storming at each step:

"You Abel! You old fool! How did that horse break loose? How----My God!
Who is that?" for he was now near enough to see the three figures and to
hear Abel's sobs which punctuated his words as he held the helpless
little figure in his arms.

"What is it? What has happened?"

"Gawd only knows, Mars Athol. But he'p me wid dis chile quick please sur.
She lak ter die ef we don' do some'n."

No need of that request. Relieved of his precious burden, Apache sped
away for the stable, his duty faithfully performed. There many willing
hands cared for him while his little mistress, the excitement, fatigue
and cold having completed Miss Woodhull's cruel work, was tenderly
carried into the house by old Abel and her uncle, the latter muttering:

"It's some of that damned woman's work! I know it is, and I'll bring the
whole school down about her ears unless I find out the truth of it all.
My little girl! My little girl! Over thirty-five miles in the dead of
night, alone and nearly frozen. Mary! Mary! Mammy! Everybody come quick
and phone for Doctor Marshall!"

But Beverly was not dying, and within an hour, under her mother's and
good old Mammy Riah's ministrations, was warm and snug in her bed, though
weak and exhausted. When the doctor came he ordered absolute quiet and
undisturbed rest. "She will soon drop off to sleep, and let her sleep for
hours if she can. She is utterly worn out and as much from nerve strain
as physical fatigue if I know anything of symptoms. What happened,
Seldon?"

"The good Lord who brought her through it only knows, for I don't, though
I mean to learn as soon as that child is in a condition to tell me. And
then by the great guns something's going to let loose. I've talked with
that stone image of a woman at Leslie Manor and I know what it can say.
It isn't a woman; It's a blight upon the sex: A freak: It's _stone_, and
when lightning strikes stone something bursts to smithereens. And by all
that's powerful the lightning's going to strike _this_ time. Thirty-five
miles all alone in the dead of the night. Marshall I'm all bowled over.
Good Lord! Good Lord!" The Admiral paced the library like a caged lion.

"A woman without children is only half a woman," sputtered fat little
Doctor Marshall. "I'll be in again toward evening. Don't worry about her,
for she'll come out all right. She has a constitution like India rubber."

"Well may the Lord help that old maid if she doesn't!" was the Admiral's
significant answer.




                              CHAPTER XVIII

                        WHEN THE LIGHTNING STRUCK


"Hurry up Bev! You'll be late for breakfast. You've done some sleeping
since ten o'clock last night," called Sally, pounding upon the door of
bedroom A, but getting no response.

Aileen had already knocked and called without eliciting a reply, and both
the girls were worried but tried not to show it. When ten more minutes
passed in silence Aileen looked troubled and asked:

"Do you think she is ill? Ought we to call Miss Stetson?"

"Miss Stetson!" snapped Sally. "If she is ill she would rather see the
old Nick himself than Miss Stetson. I'll run and get Mrs. Bonnell."

In spite of her anxiety Aileen laughed. True enough, Miss Stetson was not
exactly the person to call in when one was ill. "That's true, Mrs.
Bonnell will be the one to call. But I wish Bev _would_ answer. It scares
me almost to death. And I'd like right well to know what happened last
night. Beverly Ashby is not the sort of girl to go up in the air over
nothing, believe me, but she was pretty high up last night. Do go for
Bonny, Sally. I'm too nervous to wait another minute."

"All right," and away sped Sally down the corridor. As she reached the
foot of the stairs she almost ran into Wesley.

"Has yo' heard what done happen las' night, Miss Sally?" he asked
excitedly.

"No. What was it?" asked Sally eagerly.

"Miss Bev'ly's hawse done been stole f'om de stable; saddle, bridle an'
all."

"Never!" cried Sally.

"Yas ma'am, dey done been! Jeff'son yonder in de study a-tellin' Miss
Woodhull 'bout it right dis minute," and Wesley hurried away to the
dining room.

"Apache stolen! Oh----" Sally gasped. She recalled the words which
Beverly had spoken the very first hour of their acquaintance: "It would
take very little to make me light out for Woodbine."

Six months had passed since those words had been spoken, and during those
months Beverly had known some lonely hours as well as happy ones; she had
been made miserable more than once by Miss Bayliss, Miss Stetson and Miss
Woodhull, who seemed to have conceived a most unmerited dislike for the
girl. Sally knew nothing of Miss Woodhull's dislike for Admiral Seldon
because he had presumed to question her policy, nor could a girl of
Sally's sweet nature possibly understand the smallness of one which would
take out upon a defenceless young girl the resentment which she harbored
toward her older relative. Nevertheless, that was precisely the
situation, and Miss Stetson and Miss Bayliss were Miss Woodhull's
mirrors.

Sally soon found Mrs. Bonnell and together they hurried up stairs. But
Mrs. Bonnell was no more successful in getting a response to her calls
than the girls had been.

"Sally, can you climb?" she asked.

"Yes, Mrs. Bonnell," answered Sally wholly bewildered.

"Then crawl through your window and along the roof to Beverly's. I'm not
going to stir up a fuss unless I am compelled to. Look in and tell me
what you see. Be careful, dear," she ended as Sally scuttled over the
window sill. They leaned out to watch her. She gave a little cry when she
discovered that the room was empty.

"What is it?" they asked in a breath.

"She--she isn't there at all," gasped Sally.

"Not there! Raise the window and go in and unfasten the door, Sally. Be
quick for the breakfast bell will ring in a few minutes."

Sally did as bidden. The room was as undisturbed as it had been twelve
hours before.

Aileen ran to the closet. "Her riding things are gone!" she cried.

"And Wesley just told me that Apache had been stolen in the night,"
wailed Sally.

"There is more to this than we thought," said Mrs. Bonnell considerably
perturbed. "Now I _must_ report to Miss Woodhull."

She turned and hurried from the room but had not gone ten steps down the
corridor when she met that lady with wrath and fire in her eye.

"What is this fresh annoyance concerning Beverly Ashby? Jefferson has
just told me that her horse was stolen in the night. A likely story! It
is some new deception upon her part. Such duplicity it has never been my
misfortune to encounter. I wish to speak to her at once," stormed the
principal, striding into the study.

Now to be responsible for a young girl not yet sixteen years of age, and
one whose family is widely known throughout the entire state, and to
discover that said young lady has been missing from beneath one's roof
all night, is, to say the least, disconcerting. For the first time in her
domineering life the Empress was thoroughly alarmed. Alarmed for
Beverly's safety, the reputation of the school, and, last, but by no
means least, for what such a denouement might bring to pass in the future
financial outlook for her business. The school had paid well, but how
long would its patronage continue if the facts of this case became widely
known?

Miss Woodhull was an alien in the land of her adoption. She had never
tried to be anything else. She had established herself at Leslie Manor
because she wished to acquire health and wealth, and she had achieved her
objects to a wonderful degree. But she had made no friends. She did not
wish to make friends among the Southerners. She despised them and all
their customs, and though in the beginning they had made many gracious
overtures of friendship she had repulsed them at every turn. Consequently
they soon began to regard her with indifference if not with contempt.
There was absolutely nothing in common between them. She was merely a
business proposition in their midst. Their children could acquire beneath
her roof the education they desired for them, and there it ended. If, as
rumor stated, she really came of gentle Northern blood it must have
received a very peculiar infusion in her immediate forebears. They missed
something of the noblesse oblige which was to them as a matter of course.
So with each passing year the gulf had imperceptibly widened until Miss
Woodhull was as much alone in hospitable Virginia as though she lived in
Borneo.

Upon realizing that Beverly was really missing her first impulse was to
phone to Kilton Hall, for, of course, she had risen early and rushed off
to see Athol. Miss Woodhull's blood boiled at the thought! Kilton Hall of
all places the one she detested most. It had been a thorn in her flesh
from the moment she knew of its existence for its policy was
diametrically opposed to her own. Still, inquiries must be made without
further delay, but she would be discreet. So she called the school up by
phone:

"Had they seen anything of a stray horse? One of her pupil's horses had
escaped during the night and she was phoning in every direction in her
endeavors to find it. It was Miss Ashby's horse and he might have made
his way as far as the hall."

"No, there was no stray animal there, but Dr. Kilton would have a
thorough search made in their neighborhood."

But Dr. Kilton was a far cry from being a fool. Why should Miss Woodhull
think a runaway horse had run all that distance? And if he _had_ Dr.
Kilton was fully convinced that he had not run riderless. He had not
forgotten that October runaway. Moreover, he had detected a repressed
excitement in the voice over that phone. He very quietly conferred with
Mrs. Kilton and that lady was quite as quick-witted as her spouse. They
decided to maintain a discreet silence, but to make some quiet inquiries.
A few hours later Smedes, the Doctor's body servant, was sent upon an
errand to the little village nearest Leslie Manor, and Smedes knew every
servant at that school. When he returned Dr. and Mrs. Kilton became
considerably wiser regarding the true facts of the case, but decided to
say nothing to Beverly's brother for the present. But they kept in
constant communication with Leslie Manor, via Smedes and Jefferson.

Far and wide did Leslie Manor send messages and messengers. No horse was
to be found. In the school chaos reigned, and the usual Sunday decorum and
peace went by the board completely. Some of the girls were rebellious,
some hysterical, some scolded and some wept silently, and to a unit they
all blamed Miss Woodhull for the situation. Mrs. Bonnell and several of
the teachers were wholly indignant that she had not instantly communicated
with Beverly's family, as was obviously her duty. Mrs. Bonnell openly
urged it. Miss Woodhull pooh-poohed the idea. "Beverly would come back
when she recovered from her fit of sulks, and would be properly punished
for her conduct by expulsion. She had already transgressed to a degree to
warrant it, and had been warned the evening before to that effect. ("Ah,"
breathed Mrs. Bonnell at this admission). Communicate with Beverly's
people? Absurd! Why magnify such a trivial matter? Girls had made believe
to run away from the school before, and would doubtless do so again. They
invariably ran back again and Beverly would do likewise when she got
ready. She was probably with some friend in the neighborhood. She was in
the habit of forming friendships with all sorts and conditions of people.
That her horse was also gone might be a mere coincidence, or else she was
trying to frighten them all, and would come riding back by sundown. She
was capable of almost any insubordination, and rising at dawn and riding
off somewhere was merely a fresh demonstration of it."

That Miss Woodhull was merely "whistling to keep her courage up" all well
knew.

But sunset failed to bring the runaway, and Kilton Hall knew of this fact
right speedily. Then Athol was called to the Doctor's study and the facts
told him. The boy was thunderstruck, and blurted out:

"It's that old harridan!" then blushed crimson. Dr. and Mrs. Kilton did
not reprove the outbreak, but pardoned it upon the ground of excitement.

"You would better call up your uncle at once, Athol. I do not wish to
interfere, or criticise, but I know what I should wish if it were my
daughter," said Mrs. Kilton.

"Thank you ever so much, Mrs. Kilton, I'll do it right off," and he
hurried into the little room at the end of the hall where the phone
stood, Mrs. Kilton following, while the Doctor wondered what the next
move must be. A moment later he joined them. Athol soon had Woodbine on
the wire and then ensued a funny, one-sided conversation.

"Oh, Uncle Athol, is that you?"

                    *       *       *       *       *

"Say, have you,--that is,--has Bev sent any message to you today? What!
She's there, in bed? Great Scott! When did she come?"

                    *       *       *       *       *

"Three-thirty this morning on Apache? And all in? Gee! But she's all
right now? You have just been hearing the whole story from her? She did
those thirty-five miles in three hours? Jimminy Christmas! Say, she's a
pippin! Bully girl! I knew that pie-face over at her school would queer
the whole show. Say, Uncle Ath, I'd just like to put one over on her for
fair. What did she do to Bev, anyhow?"

                    *       *       *       *       *

"She never! What, told her she _lied_!" Athol very nearly kicked over the
little phone stand.

"And Bev wouldn't stand for it and lit out? Snappy work! I say, Uncle
Ath, let me come home, please, and hear all about it. I'll blow up if you
don't say yes, honest, I shall. The Doctor won't let me? You bet he will.
He and Mrs. Kilton are right here beside me and almost dancing up and
down. They're peaches."

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" he jerked over his shoulder. "But they are all
right. They've been almost worried to death. They heard of it early this
morning and wanted to get word to you right off, but didn't dare butt in,
you see....

"Yes, they have just said I may come and I'll be down on the first train
in the morning. I mustn't say a word to _Arch_. Oh, Uncle Ath! Well, I
won't if you say not but I reckon I'll burst if I don't tell him. You
don't want the old maid to get wise that Bev's at Woodbine? Going to give
her a little dose of discipline? Oh, I say, Uncle Ath, give her all
that's coming to her. She rates it all right, all right. She's made
things just too darned hot for Bev, and a whole bunch of the girls up
there. Everybody hates her."

"Eh?" as Mrs. Kilton's hand was laid warningly upon his shoulder. Dr.
Kilton had turned hastily away. He could not trust his countenance, nor
did he wish to hear too much. The boy which had never died in him was
rebelling in sympathy with Athol.

A few more sentences and Athol hung up the receiver, and sought the
Doctor. He was boiling with rage.

"Brace up, old chap. It's nothing serious, you may be sure of that, or
your uncle would have sent for you at once. And, remember, mum's the
word."

"Yes, sir. I'll remember, sir. And thank you a whole lot, sir, for
letting me phone. I'll hold my jaw--I mean I won't say a single word."

"A pretty state of things, I'll be bound," stormed Dr. Kilton when Athol
had gone. "Why that woman----" he did not complete his sentence.

"I wish she would sell out and go to live in Jericho, or some other
remote place!" cried Mrs. Kilton, petulantly. Then added eagerly: "Oh
Avary, perhaps she will--after all this. It will stir the whole
countryside."




                               CHAPTER XIX

                            FOR HAPPIER DAYS


While Athol was fuming at Kilton Hall and trying to keep his promise to
his uncle to "hold his jaw," though it very nearly resulted in lockjaw,
the ferment at Leslie Manor grew.

The older girls had grown rebellious almost to a unit, and the entire
school was terror-stricken or hysterical, the inevitable outcome of a
discipline which had steadily grown more severe and arbitrary; a nagging
surveillance which only incited in the pupils a wild desire to do the
very things of which they were unjustly suspected and accused. They were
never trusted, their simplest, most innocent acts were misconstrued,
their word doubted, and, as in Beverly's case, Miss Woodhull had more
than once cruelly baited and insulted them.

Truly, "the years had wrought strangenesses in her," and a more
short-sighted policy than she had adopted for the past five it would be
hard to conceive.

Mrs. Bonnell and some of the teachers had been painfully alive to all
this for a long time. Two or three of the instructors had resigned and
sought positions elsewhere, unable to work in the unhappy atmosphere
which Miss Woodhull created.

Once Mrs. Bonnell had bearded the lioness in her den and striven to
remonstrate with her, which had drawn upon her devoted head such a storm
of resentment that she had then and there tendered her resignation also.
At that point Miss Woodhull, realizing how entirely dependent she was
upon Mrs. Bonnell's perfect management of Leslie Manor had actually
apologized and begged Mrs. Bonnell to remain. She excused her language
upon the score of excessive fatigue after so many years of unremitting
work. "Unremitting?" Mrs. Bonnell smiled but accepted the apology. Her
livelihood depended upon her own work, and she also loved the place and
had many friends in that part of the world. But the idea of Miss
Woodhull's "arduous work" was certainly amusing. Miss Woodhull never did
a thing (but criticise) from one day's end to the next. She had long
since given up all classes, and now merely presided as the autocrat of
the establishment, unloved by any, feared by many, disliked by all. If
Miss Stetson and Miss Baylis really did like her they also shared the
fear she inspired.

More than one upheaval had occurred in the course of the school's
existence, but had always been quickly hushed up, though vague rumors had
circulated throughout the community. During later years, however, more
than one girl had "been dismissed," so Miss Woodhull stated, "for
unbecoming conduct." The girls themselves told different stories. For the
past three years Dr. and Mrs. Kilton had been quietly trying to purchase
Leslie Manor through agents in Richmond, for a good bit of inside
information had come to them regarding the manner in which matters were
shaping there, and their pride in the community, and in Warren County,
shrank from some possible crisis which would bring upon it an unpleasant
notoriety.

In one sense the girls in Leslie Manor were well cared for. Their
physical and personal welfare were safe in Mrs. Bonnell's hands and the
instruction was thorough and excellent. But in the wise development of
character, in the trustful, happy confidence which girlhood should know,
in the harmony which is girlhood's right, or the harmless frolicing, and
healthful bodily development from spontaneous activities, they were sadly
lacking. Everything was cut and dried. All things ordered from Miss
Woodhull's austere standpoint. No wonder that the school harbored
"Pettys" and "Eleanors" and "Electras" and a few other oddities. Until
this year it had never sheltered a "Beverly," and this same Beverly was
likely to prove, though with no such intention upon her part, its
Waterloo.

And thus stood affairs that Sunday evening after Beverly's flight, and
then from a source least expected Bomb Number 1 was hurled.

All day long Electra Sanderson had been strangely silent. At eight
o'clock she marched down to Miss Woodhull's study, rapped upon the door,
and was bidden enter. That lady sat with her hand upon the telephone
receiver, about to remove it. She now fully realized that Admiral Seldon
must be communicated with at once. She must face the music this time. She
almost hailed Electra with joy as the source of a brief respite.

Electra crossed the room, rested one hand upon the corner of Miss
Woodhull's desk, plucked up her courage and plunged in head first:

"You scolded Beverly Ashby for receivin' a letter she didn't _get_. It
wasn't hers at all. It was Petty Gaylord's. I saw her receive it. I don't
want to tell tales, but I _wont_ have Beverly blamed for something she
never done--_did_. She's always been nice and polite to me and Petty aint
been. Eleanor Allen _stole_ that letter and brought it down here to you
just to get Beverly into trouble. I _saw_ her do it. She took it right
out of Beverly's history book. Petty dropped it in history class and
never knew what had become of it. The next morning Beverly came into our
room and told Petty that she had picked it up to return it to her but
when she opened her book to get it it was gone, but Petty wouldn't
believe her and said awful things to her till Beverly just looked at her
the way she _can_ look when she _despises_ people (well Miss Woodhull
knew that look) and went out of the room. But Eleanor had that letter all
the time, 'cause I saw her sneak into Beverly's room and snitch it. I
don't know what she wanted with it, but after I saw her take it I watched
her every single minute. I thought she would give it to Petty, of course,
they're so stuck on each other, but she didn't. She just kept and kept it
for some mucker trick, and when I saw her comin' down to your study last
night I knew just as well as anything what she was up to. She hates
Beverly just because she won't have anything to do with her and laughs at
Petty and her mash. Petty's just dead in love with that feller at
Annapolis. Now if you don't believe what I've told you you can just send
for both of them and ask them yourself. I don't care a cent what you do
for I'm going to leave this hateful school tomorrow and you can't stop
me. And I'll tell dad all about this fracas too. I hate you and
everything in the school--so there, now!" and with this final explosion
Eleanor turned and fled from the room. Erin Go Bra! If Eleanor's story
had not collapsed Miss Woodhull her English certainly would have
compassed that result. She fell back upon her chair panting. Just then
her phone rang: BOMB No. 2.

"No, Admiral Seldon, your niece is not here this evening. She is
temporarily absent. When do I expect her to return? Oh, er--I think by
tomorrow at latest. Is she where you can communicate with her by phone?
Oh, certainly, certainly. The number? Why, er, I must ascertain for you.
You must know immediately? You have heard alarming rumors? Ridiculous!
Your niece missing since last evening? Preposterous! Absurd! Yes, of
course, if you insist. And you will be over by the first train in the
morning? Really, you are over-solicitous. My pupils are well looked after
and cared for. You have reason to believe they are? Your tone hardly
bears out your statement. She must be here to receive you when you
arrive? Oh, certainly. _Very_ well. Good-by." The Empress came nearer
fainting after that conversation than she had ever come in all her life.

But such a nature as hers must have a vent for its spleen, and what
better ones than Eleanor and Petty, the cause of all the mischief? The
electric bell which summoned them to Miss Woodhull's study fairly
sputtered sparks. Eleanor was sulkily silent. Petty, as usual, in tears.
Tears were Petty's long suit.

We have not time to dwell upon the details of that interview even if we
would. Eleanor was one of the few girls to really be expelled from the
school, and Petty promptly fled to "darling mamma" and "Reggie."

Early Monday morning Admiral Seldon arrived upon the scene and was
closeted with the Empress for two solid hours. This time his guns were
_not_ silenced, and those passing the study door could hear a steady
rumble like heavy firing afar off, and in the intervals lighter shots, as
though a gatling gun were popping its stacatto fire. Ultimately the heavy
gun silenced the gatling. The last shot was something upon this order:

"Your methods, Madam, may prevail elsewhere, but permit me to say that
they are a dead failure here. You are not training cart horses, but
thoroughbreds, and you can't lash and spur _that_ breed. No, my niece
will _never_ return to Leslie Manor while it continues under its present
management, and the next time I select a school for her the character and
personality of its head will influence my choice far more than the
curriculum, or modern methods. We have managed in bygone days to produce
some pretty fine specimens of the true gentlewoman by the old methods in
vogue in this part of the United States, and I am hopeful that we may
produce a few more before the race dies out. Yes, I assuredly advise a
rest, Madam, and that you prolong it indefinitely. It will benefit you
immensely, I am sure--and also a great many others. I have the honor to
wish you good-morning. And you need feel no further concern regarding my
niece."

The following week the Easter recess began. During that recess Miss
Woodhull went to a famous Sanitarium in the state in order to "Restore
her over-taxed nerves." She did not know that the physician in charge was
one of Admiral Seldon's oldest friends. He strongly advised against
resuming her duties after the Easter recess, and urged her to discontinue
all work (?) for at least a year, and to seek an entire change of scene.

She followed his advice so far as change of scene was concerned, but her
idea of a complete rest was an immediate and very active affiliation with
her suffering sisters in a crusade for their "rights," and the overthrow
of the oppression of the sterner sex. She sailed for England, and once in
London became one of the most rampant of the wronged ones.

Meanwhile the school was being conducted by Miss Baylis, who for five
blissful weeks reigned supreme, while "hope" hinted a permanent one. But,
alas! nothing is so delusive as human hope. That city across the sea
settled Miss Baylis' plans, and Miss Woodhull's future. That lady had
found her true place among England's "gentlewomen"(?), though she had
utterly failed to do so among Virginia's. Over there she could chuck
books at the heads of dignified judges and glory in seeing the old
gentlemen dodge. She could heave her shoes at the Chancellor, and shout
and yell with her wronged sisters. She could smash windows, blow up
people's houses, arrange and cavort with the maddest of her feminine
friends, and give a glorious vent to all the long pent-up belligerence in
her makeup, to the everlasting humiliation, mortification, shame and
horror of the GENTLEWOMEN of her own land. Exit Miss Woodhull.

And her substitute? Her triumph was short lived. Leslie Manor was sold in
May. Agents in Richmond conducted the sale. No one knew the purchaser,
but during the following month workmen appeared as by magic and labored
like gnomes all day, and almost all night too. New buildings were
erected, all sorts of strange changes made in the old ones. The place
assumed huge proportions. What could it all mean?

In August the cat popped out of the bag. Dr. and Mrs. Kilton moved in. A
new and imposing sign appeared upon the handsome iron grill-work of the
entrance gate, the gold letters reading: "The Wilder-Kilton Co-Educational
Academy!" Wilder had been Mrs. Kilton's maiden name. Old Kilton Hall, long
since out-grown, became the home farm, and a sort of retreat for any
pupils who were ailing or in need of a complete rest. The school was to be
opened September thirtieth, under an entirely new auspices, and certainly
under very new conditions. It was a daring venture, a complete innovation,
but Dr. and Mrs. Kilton were sanguine of success. Whether their dreams
were realized or not must be told in "A Dixie Girl Co-Ed."

And down in Woodbine?

Well, three hilarious young people were nearly tearing the world to
tatters in their joy. In May Admiral Seldon had taken them to Washington
and Annapolis, where they had, sure enough, had the time of their lives.
Then, the sight-seeing fever increasing, Mrs. Ashby joined them in
Philadelphia, and away they went to New York, Niagara, and finally to
Europe, where the summer was spent in one round of ecstasy. And now
September was drawing to its close, and with the last day of that month
their eagerly-longed for co-ed days would begin.

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